Relational capacity in built over time and requires depth. Genuine acknowledgement does not need a long standing relationship to be effective, and is available for us to give to any and all we interact with. Acknowledgment focuses mainly on performance or the achievement of a specific goal. Appreciation becomes more personal and specific and requires some level of relationship in order to be effective. Appreciation recognizes and responds to the value of the individual individual.
Affirmation combines all three layers, understanding the character and core of the person.
The word “affirm” means to declare positively; assert to be true; to confirm. Affirmation is defined as a positive declaration or assertion. It is a form of connection that is far stronger and more powerful than praise or verbal pats on the back. An affirmation is a positive, well thought out declaration of your beliefs and feelings regarding another individual.
Affirmation takes on a spiritual context, giving it power that acknowledgement and appreciation do not hold. Having been made in the image of God, any time we affirm someones character, we are also praising our heavenly Father. This makes it a powerful connection. Acknowledgement and appreciation are extremely valuable in connecting and creating value for an individual, but in our humanness, can be misused. We may actually be using these as a form of flattery, expecting some type of payout for our complements.
True Godly affirmation sees only the character of the individual, and it is intent on reinforcing and encouraging that Godly character quality with no expectation of personal payout.
In order to become effective in giving affirmations, you need to focus on seeing character qualities behind the performance of the individual. See the perseverance it took, the compassion, honesty, integrity or self discipline.
The Bible encourages us in Proverbs 3:27 to "not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it in your power to act." It also says in Proverbs 11:25 that "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Although we want to do this with open hands and no expectations, God himself says He will refresh your spirit for speaking life into another.
One of the hurdles you must jump in order to get to a place where you can effectively affirm others, begins with yourself. Many of us are highly self-critical and allow our inner voice to point out flaws and mistakes loudly and on a regular basis. This creates the negative self talk that colors our view of everything and everyone. If you can't see and rejoice in the Godly qualities you possess and the growth you have made, it will be hard to see it or speak it into the lives of others.
So begin by allowing God to show you what he loves about you, the qualities He has given to you. Thank Him for those character traits and commit to continual growth. The greatest way to thank Him and show your "appreciation" is by developing and then pouring those gifts into the lives of others. Ask God to reveal to you the great qualities of those in your family, as well as friends and co-workers. We get what we focus on, that is a fundamental truth. So focus on how much you are loved, that you are uniquely special and that God has gifted you.
In order to gain ground in this battle remember Paul's encouragement to all of us in Romans 12:2 to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Our culture is saturated in negativity. Satan and his minions continually bombard us with discouragement, doubt and untruths. We live in a society where the number one form of humor is put downs. We hear far more jeers than cheers. We have to guard against all of this eroding our mental foundation.
Stay focused on what God says about you. The Bible is full of words of affirmation that tell us who we are in Christ. Let them soak into our souls so that we can begin to see them and then speak them to others. Negative thoughts run through the minds of individuals all day long. Make it a personal battle to fight against this and begin speaking life into those you care about.
One of the best reads on this topic is Practicing Affirmations / God Centered Praise for those who are not God, by Sam Crabtree. At the end of the book he gives 100 affirmation ideas to use. If you are serious about growth in this area, it is a fantastic book and worth the time to read. For now here are a few of those ideas to encourage you to try:
1) Take time to affirm someone you know who is doing something risky yet right. For example, a missionary going to hostile country. Let them know you appreciate and are inspired by their Joshua spirit.
2) Next time you send someone a birthday card, add a few words of affirmation highlighting a Christ-like quality you see in that person.
3) Positively compare someone you know to a Bible hero. "Joe, your loyalty and friendship reminds me of Jonathan in the old Testament."
4) Following a worship service, write a note or leave a voice mail for someone who excelled in reverential musicality, hospitable ushering, enthusiastic reading, or faithful preaching and share a character quality you think was apparent.
5) Commend a parent you know that is sacrificing for their children in a Godly way.
6) If you know someone who is chronically ill, take time to affirm their endurance, patience, and determination.
7) When a staff member at your church has invested extra time at work, send a note to their spouse, perhaps with flowers or a gift card, expressing appreciation for them sharing their husband or wife and focusing on their sacrifice and faithfulness.
8) Rather than give your spouse an anniversary card written by someone who works for Hallmark, spend some time studying the phrasing in the cards in the anniversary card section, and then take time to deliberately compose your own card, focusing
on their Godly character.
God wants us, as believers, to be part of building His kingdom. Each of us are valuable individuals that make up that kingdom. Lets go against the flow of this world by mastering the ministry of affirmation and become people builders.
For the past few weeks you have invested valuable time into studying how to build deeper and more impactful relational capacity. That speaks to the core of your heart, one that is committed to the development of others.