The Greek translation for the word encouragement is parakletos, which literally means "called alongside to help." It brings to mind the scriptural image of two people yoked side by side, as when Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. . .For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29–30).
This kind of encouragement includes offering an uplifting word, but it is more than that. It is standing by your husband and keeping an attitude of good cheer when he is laid off his job. It is pitching in to finish the dishes when your wife is too tired to stand. It's crouching down to a four-year-old's eye level and listening sympathetically as she tearfully tells you about her skinned knee.
The act of encouraging doesn't include instructing your partner on what to do about a problem. It doesn't include giving advice, offering tips for improving in the future, or uttering hollow words such as "You really should have known better than to make that foolish mistake" or "Get over it."
Instead, encouragement is a participation game. When you stand alongside your mate and share his or her troubles, you've become a practitioner of parakletos and an exceptional source of courage, hope, and happiness.