22 Nov 2010

The Lost Art of Affirmation

You remember how as a kid you would do something. Maybe a blob of paint on a page that you passed off as art on par with anything Monet ever produced. Or you wrote your name on a page, even though it looked more like those puzzles where you follow the fishing lines to find the treasure rather than the old boot.

But it didn’t matter. Because in your eyes it was the greatest thing since…well at that age, ever.

You were so proud of yourself and all you wanted to do was show someone. Anyone. Just to show them that you could do something. That you had learned a skill you didn’t have yesterday. That’s an important step in our development I think. To show another human something we created and have them tell us how good it is.

But somehow we lose that. Instead when we grow up a little we like to keep stuff from people. We get more and more used to hearing criticism or having people laugh at our 'crappy' attempts of being creative. So we decide to hide what we produce and we decide to keep it to ourselves even though it was made for the world to see/taste/read/feel. (not smell..what are you making that you want people to smell?!)

It seems that when you are a kid, adults need to keep telling them that they are smart and bright and can walk a few steps. Most adults can do those things pretty easily, but we know and recognise that kids can’t and they need encouraging.

But is it just children who need to be affirmed?

In the last week or so I have received two separate messages from people who I didn’t even know read my blog. And they liked it. They were genuine and they were sincere and I didn’t expect those two people to be readers. But they are.

And quite frankly it made me feel great.

At first it felt a little wrong or even egotistical to feel great. But then I realised that was crap and I enjoyed the feeling.

It made me happy and I felt like what I was doing was at least a little bit decent.

But most importantly it made me want to write. It made me want to create and carry on and not give up.

Which made me realise something. That it doesn’t matter how old you are, we ALL still need to be affirmed and encouraged.

From a young age I have been told that I need to be more like Jesus. I never really know how to go about this especially since the one time I tried to walk on water ended badly and I still need to fork out at least fiver if I want some wine. But I’ve been told to love others, to give to the poor, to turn the other cheek. All great things, but I think that one thing has been missing. There is one way in which we can and should be like Jesus that somehow we miss or deliberately ignore.

Talking of walking on water. Remember the time that Jesus told Peter to walk towards him….on water?

The disciples were on a boat when they saw Jesus on the surface of the water walking towards them. Then Jesus said one simple word to Peter.


So Peter started to take a dander towards Jesus...on water. Then at some point it must have hit him what he was doing and he freaked out a little and this happened.

'But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying,

Lord, save me.

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.'

Instead of Jesus laughing at Peter he encouraged him. Instead of telling Peter he had let him down he gave him hope. Instead of telling Peter he would amount to nothing he helped him stand up.

He affirmed Peter. Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Jesus to pick you up and show you that you can do it. That you can walk on water for Pete's sake. But he did.

How often do we look at other people's lives and take a swipe at them? How often in Church, in work, in life do we put down people who are trying to create something beautiful?

A lot more than we should.

But how often do we follow Jesus' lead? How often do you, without being asked, encourage the people you know and love in what they are doing. In their work, in their music, in their writing, in their art, in their life?

Probably a lot less than we should.

Because when we do they will probably want to create more or create better. They will probably want to encourage someone else. They will want to keep challenging themselves and the people around them to give that thing that they know they can.

When Jesus told Peter to walk all he said was "Come"

Maybe we just need to hear Jesus tell us "Come" or sing, or write, or mould or begin.

Maybe then we can find affirmation again.


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