Did the title of this post get your attention? And if it did, were you thinking about receiving affirmation or giving affirmation? My experience with others, as well as personally, is that affirmation is extremely important. And it is important to both give it and receive it.
Who doesn’t appreciate being affirmed? In a book I wrote using letters I received during my 44 years of pastoral ministry I included a lot of positive letters I had received. And in connection with that I mentioned an article I had read in which the author got my attention when he used the phrase affirmation addiction. Now addiction is a strong word. And I can see how someone who is motivated by, starving for, and seeking approval could create all kinds of problems for himself or herself. And perhaps some do need to guard against it; but appreciating being affirmed is no indication of being addicted to it.
I have often quoted Mark Twain who revealed, “I can live for two months on one compliment.” Most of us can identify with that. Being complimented feels good, energizes us, and encourages us. (I think people are affirmed when they post something on Facebook and get “likes” from their friends.) No one should undervalue the importance of compliments and affirmation. And I do not hesitate, nor am I embarrassed, to say through the years I have been greatly encouraged and my work has been enriched by those who complimented and affirmed me.
What about giving affirmation? And I do not have in mind insincere flattery or saying something just to be nice. But if we grasp how important being affirmed is, doesn’t it follow that affirming others is also important? I have in mind those with whom we are closest in our families (spouse, children, parents, etc.) all the way to the person who waits on us at the store or restaurant and everyone in between. Can we cultivate a greater awareness of the good things that people do and grow in the practice of letting them know we appreciate them and what they have done? I think Jesus’ words in Luke 6:31 are relevant, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (NLT). One of the greatest statements of affirmation I know of came to Jesus following His baptism in a voice from heaven, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Mt. 3:17, NLT).
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