A couple of days ago I woke up with more than a tinge of old guy grumpiness—I hadn’t been sleeping well. For whatever reason—perhaps the surprising re-emergence of a Scripture passage memorized when I was very young?—this verse popped into my head: “Be of good cheer…” These words were part of Jesus’ Passover night conversations with his disciples, coming at the end of a series of his admonitions and encouragements. (See John 16:33 and its context.)
The swirl of current events and conditions could easily have prompted my crabbiness, so I needed cheer that day. (It’s happened before: Once begun, my early morning surliness can infect an entire day.) Instead, “Be of good cheer” took over the brain space that grouchiness might have inhabited. That phrase served as a good reminder—a brainworm?—for how to deal with whatever the day might bring. That day turned good because good cheer thoroughly suffused my thoughts.
Later, I did a little more etymological investigation—including parsing the original Greek for John 16:33. It turns out that, in this passage, cheer comes from *tharseo (courage), a word that may also indicate how we can radiate a bold confidence that comes from being warm-hearted (towards others).
So Jesus’ encouragement might also mean, “Be positive and cheerful in your relations to others—warm them up by your courageous attitude.” (I know Jesus’ didn’t talk that way, but you get the picture….)
Since that not-grumpy day, I’ve held onto “Be of good cheer” as a kind of attitudinal amulet, carrying it around inside me as a reminder and encouragement to be a source of tharseo cheer for people I meet each day. Today I’d like to invite you to do the same….
Be of good cheer!
* tharseo, a derivative of tharsos, means “emboldened from within.” Tharsos hearkens back further, to the root thar, originally meaning something like “being bolstered because of being warmed up.”
The Late Latinate root for the more-familiar meaning of cheer is cara (face), possibly from Greek kara (head). Hence, “a smiling, cheerful countenance.” From the mid-13th century onward, cheer has been thought of as a frame of mind, state of feeling, spirit; mood, humor.
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