The art of giving (and receiving) affirmation

When God spoke creation into being, he looked upon everything he had made and called it good. In doing so, God himself set the precedent of the art of affirmation.

Affirmation has become a bit of a buzzword among Christians circles. We often hear it spoken of but may lack an understanding of what it means and how to really do it.

Affirmation means more than exchanging pleasantries or extending words of encouragement to someone; it is more than clicking “like” or leaving an emoji-filled comment on their most recent social media post. Rather, affirmation is an acknowledgement of God’s goodness and beauty in another person. It is seeing them as God sees them — beautiful, good and infinitely worthy of love.

We all crave to be (and feel) seen, known and loved. However, especially as women, we tend to brush off authentic affirmations under the guise of false humility. Our inability to graciously accept affirmations stems more from the sin of pride than any virtue. We struggle to believe that the person affirming us is genuine or that we are actually worthy of the words being said. We struggle to see and recognize God even when staring him in the face (or back at us in the mirror).

So how can we begin to root out this deadly sin and return our gaze to the maker of all that is good?

We affirm him, we praise him wherever he dwells, particularly in our sisters. When we learn to recognize and praise the goodness of God in someone else, we become more attuned to recognizing it in ourselves.

Here are some tips to help you master the art of affirmation.

Be present

Before you even open your mouth to speak a kind word, you can practice this divine art. Affirmation begins with being present to the person in front of you. You first affirm God’s goodness in a person by recognizing their inherent dignity and giving them the time and attention they deserve.

Smile. Make eye contact and be empathetic. Actively listen, and respond thoughtfully and appropriately. Show them that you truly value what they have to say and who they are. The more you pay attention, the more opportunities for affirmation will arise.

Also, a good rule for genuine affirmations is to say it as soon as you feel it; there is truly no time like the present. Afterall, if you met God on the street, you (hopefully) wouldn’t wait to offer him praise.

Cultivate gratitude

It’s easy to take your friends and loved ones for granted, so if you want to practice the art of affirmation, you’ll need to take the time to cultivate gratitude.

Having a grateful heart opens your eyes and allows you to see and rejoice in goodness, even in the smallest details of your life. It will help you more quickly recognize and respond to the Lord’s generosity, and more clearly articulate your gratitude to others.

Be specific and sincere

While often used synonymously, affirmations and compliments are not the same thing. Compliments certainly have their place and, if done well, can be empowering and appreciated. However, compliments usually don’t go much deeper than surface-level observations (ie. “I like your shoes,” “Your hair looks fabulous!”).

Affirmations require you to dig a little deeper — which will be easy if you were present and paying attention!

Be sincere and specific. Avoid vague or generic statements. Let the person know that you genuinely encountered the beauty of God through their words, their actions or their very person.

Regularly practicing the art of affirmation will not only deepen your relationship with your sisters but also with God. It will transform the way you view the world and yourself, helping you see both as a place of goodness, beauty and wonder.

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