I have struggled with the concept of affirmation.
For years, I have strived (mostly in vain) to continually uplift people in the way I speak to them, which I have learned is a tricky vehicle for truth, at best. I have felt the sting of careless words too often and never want to be the one to use the voice God gave me as a weapon, levelled against others in a desperate attempt to validate myself before the audience I made up in my head.
I have struggled with the concept of affirmation lately because words often lose their meaning when repeated over and over and over and I swear that’s nowhere close to my heart behind kind words I say, but I often lack the mental and verbal capacity to articulate exactly what I mean.
I have struggled with the concept of affirmation lately because I find in myself an overwhelming need to be affirmed in what I do and in who I am. Insecurity has, in many ways, become my best friend and in the same way I use words to build others up, I need that myself.
But often when I am experiencing waves of negative emotions and feeling low and down on myself, I generally can look around me and see if I am building others up in spite of my lack of strength. Usually, the answer is a resounding “no!” When I am desperate for affirmation and seek out opportunities to be affirmed, I am generally not affirming others either. It is cyclical.
I have struggled with the concept of affirmation lately because I am inherently selfish and everything in me cries out for the glory and enthronement of myself. I affirm to be affirmed because of the desperate desire within me to be validated in some meaningful way.
But in my own deficiencies, God has hit me with a simple, yet profound truth:
To affirm literally means “to proclaim something as true.” So, from now on, as I aspire to affirm others, I will do so whilst proclaiming things I know to be true about them. In doing this, I am able to truly see them past my selfishness. And the desire to be affirmed raging inside of me will starve under the weight of the simple fact that I can claim the truth that others are made in the image of God, which gives them inherent value. And when I grasp that, love is not far off. If I cannot love others, I cannot claim to love God.
In speaking real affirmation over people, articulating that God loves them and has called them to himself to be conformed in the likeness of his son Jesus, having concrete descriptions of God’s power at work within them, rather than passing remarks that look and feel completely fake, I come to the end of myself and do not need to seek out the affirmation I crave because the basic truth I believe about all people is shown to be present in me.
Outside affirmation is great, but I will not let it drive me. My prayer is that I will grow more and more to look like Jesus and learn to forget myself.
Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.-Tim Keller