The Power of Affirmation

During a recent phone call I was again reminded of the necessity of affirming others. Affirmation is powerful.  The caller in a bragging manner, talked about how wonderful she was, how beautifully she sang and how special she was to her nieces and nephews.  She spent 20 minutes telling me how much she was loved by everyone who knew her. 


Sadly, her life has been characterized by relationship failures and abuses of all kinds – mental, emotional, physical and sexual.  In truth, she self-loathes but the pain she feels drives her to express what she longs for and what she was robbed of – affirmation.  Just as physical life is in the blood, regular affirmation sustains healthy life in the soul (mind, will and emotions). 


I hung up deeply touched.  It seems my path crosses regularly with others who are affirmation-starved or at least mal-nutritioned!


Self-bragging is often symptomatic of those who were never or seldom affirmed, usually going back to childhood.  All of us need to feel valued and know that we have worth.  When we don’t, we either brag on ourselves or we self-abase.  Not everyone who brags on himself is arrogant – obnoxious perhaps – but not arrogant. 


What is affirmation?  To affirm someone is to offer emotional support or encouragement.  Individuals who are always criticized, judged or never affirmed often grow up to become emotional cripples.  They lack healthy self-esteem and become robbed of their God-given potential.  In return, they never affirm others and the cycle continues.  We can’t give away what we don’t have!  Yet, affirmation in the right context – not flattery – builds healthy self-respect and drives us toward personal excellence.


I regularly witness the results of those who grew up never being affirmed.  They are “Me-centered.”  They never ask, “How are you?”  They walk into a room and without fail begin talking about themselves and what’s going on in their world.  They often interrupt conversations already in progress with their usual negative self-centeredness.  They live in a bubble that’s quite small, but where drama-driven issues continue to make headlines in their life.  They bring “weightiness” to every conversation and often have nothing of value to contribute.  They grind the same axes over and over.  Their continued lack of affirmation makes them socially intolerable.


Self-centeredness overrides others-centeredness and when put together in a group these sad people vie for attention and always strive to get the spotlight.  It’s a wearing, tragic spectacle to watch!  People who are affirmation-starved many times disqualify themselves from effective ministry because it becomes all about them instead of the Lord they represent.  They are willing to be divisive and even sow discord in hopes that someone – anyone – will tell them how wonderful they are!  This sounds ridiculous but it’s an all too present reality.  How sad!


On the other hand, I have watched as the power of affirmation works its wonder in the lives of broken and hurting people.  Critical and defensive attitudes melt into kindness and break out into smiles when I give them affirmation.  Offenses are softened and even eliminated when individuals feel loved and valued.  Anger is often replaced with laughter as affirmation works its magic.


Today make it a point to affirm those you meet.  Don’t flatter – affirm.  Speak life into their soul, but don’t allow them to self-abase or to brag.  Guide the discussion to an others-centered conclusion.  Affirmation does its best work when we by example show people that life is not about us but about “others.”  I’ve seen people come to Christ when their personal “love tank” was filled with affirmation instead of criticism.  Hearts become opened to the gospel when affirmation and honor fill the atmosphere of their lives. 




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