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EnCOURAGE one another

January 2018
By: Michele D. Shoun

Pregnancy care centers are in the business of encouragement. Their stock in trade is reaching out to women who are being encouraged (or forced) to abort their babies. Indeed, if ever there was a misuse of the word “encourage” it’s in connection with taking an easy way out! 

What does it mean to encourage? Is it one of those words that’s lost meaning through overuse?

Collins English Dictionary offers a simple definition:

1. to inspire (someone) with the courage or confidence (to do something)

2. to stimulate (something or someone to do something) by approval or help; support

I like that its emphasis is on encouraging someone to do something.

It helps to consider its two parts: “en” and “courage.” “Courage” brings to mind uncommon bravery in the face of danger or difficulty. Courageous people face down their fears and overcome obstacles. They’re confident and resolute.

Placing “en” (or “em”) before a noun or adjective creates a verb. For example, entomb is about placing a body in a tomb and enthrone puts someone on a throne. The prefix can also give the idea of being surrounded (enmeshed, enveloped) or equipped (ennobled). 

So encourage indicates that courage is being inserted where previously lacking. An encourager is someone courageous who lends courage to another in need of it. Encouragers surround the fearful and have courage for them. Doesn’t that describe PCC counselors?

Real bravery is required for doing hard things. In the case of a PCC client, it’s about giving life to a child. Think of the courage it takes for a woman to face her parents, friends, coworkers, fellow students, church members and to say, “I messed up. Will you help me?”

How do PCCs respond to such women? The basis of encouragement isn’t in boosting her ego, along the lines of, “You can do this!” Rather, it’s joining her in her struggle. PCCs are especially good at that. 

Are we enough?

Encouragement is more than making someone feel better about herself or her circumstances. It’s about emboldening her to overcome her fears. Part of that is being at her side as she faces the giants. 

A pervasive (poisonous?) message

The You ARE Enough Facebook page was created 6 years ago, by Jennifer Gayle, blogger at Know You Are Enough. She reminds followers to have faith in themselves because they’re one of a kind. Much of what she says can seem harmless, but we might ask, “Is it enough?”

Huffington Post blog post by Erin Bahadur applies the You-Are-Enough message to her battle with body image, which is a common theme. “I have spent a lot of time trying to be what I thought others and the world wanted me to be…. You are enough and your enough is what changes the world.”

Purpose Fairy blog post entitled You Are Enough, You Have Enough, You Know Enough proclaims, “I find my way back home, my way back to love and back to ME. I was once lost but now I’m found.” Sounds like a new twist on the meaning of salvation. 

This is why it’s troubling to see some PCCs adopt a mantra of empowerment in response to abortion: “You. Are. Enough.” I'm sorry, but no, she’s not! And neither are we. No one is sufficient in themselves. It’s dangerous to send women out from the center with little more than a pep talk.

There are endless “You Are Enough” memes on Pinterest, and even a song! Etsy carries T-shirts, mugs, adult coloring books, bracelets, plaques, prints, keychains, jewelry, cards, journals, tote bags, magnets, and teaspoons emblazoned with the saying. Variations on the theme are “I am enough” and “We are enough.” These products and the message seem to be primarily targeted at women.

It shows up on Facebook and Twitter, and in blog posts (see sidebar). What are its origins? 

The earliest reference I could find is to a 2007 book by David Walker -- You Are Enough: Always Have Been... Always Will. He is the founding pastor of the Los Angeles Church of Religious Science, which has links to the “science of the mind,” “The Secret” (law of attraction, etc.), “New Thought,” and Christian Science (Mary Baker Eddy). It is a New Age cult. 

There’s also a 2016 book by Zoe Summer, You Are Enough: Thirty Mini Mantras for Self-Transformation Be Empowered, Enlightened, and Inspired, which “offers a practical and easy way to begin your journey back to self-love.” Her idea seems to have its roots in Eastern religion.

Could “You Are Enough” be in any sense a biblical message? Is there not “victory in Jesus” and don’t we have supernatural resources in Christ? Of course, but when Christians embrace a popular message without clarification, we may add to confusion. In particular, if we’ve told a woman, “YOU are enough,” how do we introduce her need of a Savior?

Yes, she is made in the image of God, but she’s also a sinner. She cannot save herself. Without Jesus, she is dead in sin, her mind is darkened, and her eyes have been blinded by the Enemy (Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:17-18; Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

The Christian woman has needs too – for instruction in God’s word, prayer support, mentoring, and fellowship. In short, she needs the Body of Christ. She needs encouragement. 

The pregnant woman sitting before you at the PCC needs to hear you say abortion is the wrong choice – not be empowered to make whatever choice seems right to her. She needs to hear you express confidence in God, not human devices, and that you'll stand with her in making the right choice.

She may need encouragement to marry. God designed marriage as the ideal venue for raising children because “two are better than one.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) She needs a husband, although the father of her child may not be the best choice.

Our sufficiency is in Christ

Consider the incarnate Christ. When God took on flesh, He “made Himself nothing” (Philippians 2:7). In His humility, He said, “I can do nothing on my own initiative.” (John 5:19, 30) He asks His followers to die to self, to embrace His attitude of considering others better than ourselves (Luke 9:23, Phil. 2:4). 

As Paul said in Galatians 6:3, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” The “You Are Enough” slogan is deceptive. In efforts to meet women where they are and lead them to the One who is stronger and higher, PCCs should not place obstacles in their way.

Jesus is for the lowly. He invites “all who are weary and heavy-laden” to come (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s not that He wouldn’t welcome someone who thinks she's "all that," but that a person like that is unlikely to come. What He offers is rest, not success or independence. We want to point women to the sufficiency of Christ.

Rather than “You Are Enough,” let’s tell women “You Are Not Alone!”

Summary: Current feminist thought casts women as “fierce” and ready for combat. Christianity, however, is not about creating warrior princesses. PCCs stand athwart culture, asking women to consider what God asks of them. They must offer women something greater than themselves. Are we … are they … enough?



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