To encourage… it means to motivate, stimulate, in other words to acknowledge the ability in the person to accomplish something. If we look at our social structure in detail I believe we will see that lack of encouragement is one of the major problems.

Let us have a look at family life. You will see that we are very ungenerous in the use of encouraging words like “Well done my child, you can even do better than that!” Mistakes are easily pointed out at workplaces whereas accomplishments are almost always ignored. If you want an individual to be successful, encourage him. However, if your intention is to push him into a depression and have him suffer feelings of inadequacy then do not ever encourage him! I think our biggest concern is spoiling people. We say “don’t indulge him, he’ll get out of control”. Another source of concern is that we compete with people, even our children, all be it secretly. I know the importance of encouragement from my own life. I was in my first year in secondary school. The highest mark our physics teacher used to give was 8… He used to say: “9 and 10 belong to me!” He knew by heart the number of students whom he gave an 8 during the whole of his professional life, in other words they were that few. It was the second written test that year. Winter had just set in and it was cool. Dear God, how excited we were. Would there be a big difference between ourselves and our friends against whom we were competing? It felt like my heart was about to burst… As the results were read out, the silence in the classroom became deeper. Disappointment settled in every corner of the classroom like a dark nightmare… When my turn came my ears were throbbing. On that cold evening I was almost on fire… Finally I heard the word spoken: “8!”. It felt like I could go mad with joy. You would have thought the child just won the Nobel Prize… Only a few of my friends in the class room had that light in their eyes that said ‘congratulations’. Anyhow, the lesson ended. The students dispersed, I hurried home. My father was a judge in the small town. He too was heading home together with his friends. They were talking amongst each other with loud voices, their laughter was ringing in the quiet streets… I remember running after them and almost 2 meters before I caught up with them I shouted: “Father, father… I’ve got an eight in physics!” I remember him turning round with a sudden movement and saying almost with a mixture of embarrassment and irritation and with anger: “You seem to think you’ve got a ten!” He added a strong swearword and turned his back grumbling. How wretched I was at that moment… A few more years passed and I started my second year at high school. I was in one of the toughest high schools in Ankara. I was getting full marks in almost every subject, because only one person, my dear friend Şükrü was encouraging me with words like “you can do it!”, “if anyone can it is you who can solve this problem!” and I was rolling on in fourth gear (in those years there were only four gears!). This time my father’s comment was “this is not a normal state of affairs…” I am sure you all have similar memories. Without forgetting that humans are in need of encouragement every moment, I feel that when appropriate we should be generous with it. By the way, I sadly have to confess that in my young years I made the same mistake as my father, there were periods when I was rather stingy in giving encouragement to my own child. So it is very simple to turn people’s lives into paradise. And the way to do it is through encouraging them. My wish is that this is known, or at least that we don’t turn their lives into hell by breaking their enthusiasm, bringing on a depression…

Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan