A shortage of affirmation explains many things in relationships, from teenage rebellion to failed marriages. Affirmation withers up, and with it, the relationship. Meanwhile, ongoing corrections can make relationships more and more painful.
What does it look like to restore a pattern of affirmation to a relationship? At first the other person may not believe you, or receive affirmation well from you. That’s because of the deficit. Your checking account [so to speak] is in the hole.
Here are some practical suggestions to reverse the trend of an overly corrective relationship:
- If she has stopped listening to you, quit preaching.
- Stop moralizing about listening: “You should be listening to me!” Instead, ask the Holy Spirit to do his job.
- Affirm. Stay up nights if you have to, thinking of ways to say what is so commendable in him.
- Keep up a steady, tender flow of words and gestures that confirm and commend them.
- Model. We don’t affirm any particular quality we don’t personally embrace and exemplify in some appreciable measure. If we try to commend punctuality while always running late ourselves, our hypocritical compliments become off-putting.
- Love the unchanged person as is. Be a blessing to that person before he listens to you.
Things are moving in the right direction when affirmation, not correction, is the pattern. Relationships are healthy when so much affirmation is being spread around that no one is keeping track of either affirmation or correction, because the relationship doesn’t feel predominately demanding, but refreshing. This is not a matter of a raw mathematical ratio, but a perception from the other person’s point of view. This requires us to see things through others’ eyes. Do they see us as affirming?
This article is adapted from Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree.