The following appeared in the Archdiocesan Paper, *The St. Louis Review*, July 17th edition, written by Robert J. Furey.
AFFIRMATION IS SPIRITUAL FOOD
We all need affirmation. We need to know that we are seen and appreciated, noticed and valued. An affirmation is a communication whereby one person recognizes what is sacred in another. Albert Schweitzer once described affirmation as a spiritual act. He was right. An affirmation is rainwater for the spirit. Affirmation nurtures the soul.
Affirmation is more than a compliment. It is deeper than that. Affirmation is an expression of gratitude. It's my way of thanking you for the gifts you bring to the world. It's my way of saying I recognize and am thankful for your contributions, your inner beauty, your kindness. Affirmation is not about judgment (as some compliments are). Affirmaton is about honest gratitude.
Affirmation is an art. It takes practice. Some people take to it naturally while others seem to need a little more time to develop this skill. The more you look for gifts in people, the easier it gets to see them. And the expression of affirmation becomes more graceful with experience. As you become more adept at affirmation, you will become more aware of its power.
But there are risks. Fear keeps so many of us from practicing affirmation. If I try to affirm you, maybe you won't care. Or worse, maybe you will ridicule me. And what if what I say sounds like manipulation? What if I can't make an affirmation sound sincere? In short, when should I affirm someone?
If you are close enough to see or feel someone's gifts, you are close enough to express appreciation. Sincere affirmation is always right, even when a person does not know how to receive it. Sorry to say, many people go through life without hearing nearly enough affirmation. Thus they may distrust it when it is sent their way.
The unaffirmed live their lives starving for recognition and appreciation. Their wounds never close by themselves nor do they stop hurting. Instead, they remain unhealed until they receive the affirmation for which they long. Some will wall themselves off and present themselves to the world with an attitude that says, "I don't need you. In fact, I don't need anyone." If they are to live without affirmation, they want to believe that, at least, they are in control. They want to feel that they are turning away (and thus in control of) the affirmation that is missing from their lives. From behind this wall they neither give nor receive affirmation. Consequently, they separate themselves from a world they are longing to join.
This isolation damages one's entire being. Genuine happiness becomes very unlikely. Enthusiasm for life withers. But this dreadful condition can be reversed. And you don't have to wait for someone to come along to affirm you. You can improve the quality of your life by affirming others. Practice it. Stay with it. The rewards will come. Among these rewards will be the affirmation you need. When you teach those around you how to affirm, affirmation will inevitably --in time --come back to you.
Affirmation is spiritual resuscitation. Furthermore, I believe we often hear our callings in the affirmation we receive. And, by the way, I also think that we are called to affirm others. Then there's the ripple effect. Affirmations move through and beyond people. They tend to get passed on.
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