What Does “Inspire” Mean?

Our podcast throws around the word “inspire” and “inspiration” a lot. Like really a whole lot. All the time.

What does it really mean? If you look at the dictionary definitions you will get something like this:

  1. To spur on or exert influence. His passion for reading made me pick up a book and read as well.
  2. To create a feeling. The President’s speech inspired the class with a sense of hope and freedom.
  3. To give rise to something. Her speech about immigration gave inspired a grass roots movement to support voter registration in border towns.
  4. To breath in or inhale. The astronaut must inspire enough oxygen to avoid passing out.

The root word comes from the Latin inspirare which means to breathe or blow into. Originally, inspiration was thought to be the result of divine gods breathing an idea or truth into someone. I like the visual of this. An ordinary person going along through his or her day (or zim or them or your preferred pronoun), and some divine creature blows a celestial wind of passion into them igniting some spark of an idea and they are off like a shot getting stuff done. I know there are many days that I could use the divine breathing passion into me. But often, inspiration is just that jolt of excitement you get, and I often fail to jump on and ride that lightning bolt of thought. However, it’s when you ride that divine wind or that bolt of lightning that you feel so alive.

The whole idea that inspiration is movement speaks to me. Inspiration is that voice in your head that pushes you forward to make things happen. It is a feeling- a feeling that if you just let go of ordinary life and let yourself get swept away, that something amazing could happen. It’s a scary feeling sometimes, but it can be thrilling too. I love the excitement of following that idea that just sets something ablaze in your soul. It does not have to be an earth-shattering idea, it may be something small, but as long as the fire is lit, inspiration can be transformational.

And inspiration does not have to come from a divine being. It can come from so many sources- a book read, a speech you hear, a person you admire, a tragedy you endure, or some ordinary moms with a podcast. Inspiration can also come from within. Listen to that inner voice that says “why don’t you do something about it?” Don’t shut that voice down. Wrestle, challenge and debate that inner voice- all the better to clarify your thoughts. But don’t shut it down. Nurture that voice. Feed that voice. Free that voice. That is your own inspiration talking. Listen to it.

Everyone is inspired by something different. Find what inspires you. Whatever the source- find what motivates you to act, that fills your heart with passion, and what gives rise to action. And when that divine wind comes, breathe deeply. When the lightning bolt strikes, hold on with both hands and let it take you.

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