"Isn't that really what you're pushing with Leave Nothing Unsaid?"
No, a thousand times no.
Over the years, I’ve seen some people reject the importance and practice of affirmation for family and friends because they equate it with the idea that “everyone gets a trophy.”
If you’re not familiar with that expression, it refers to the idea that everyone should be equally praised and rewarded for their efforts and not for their results. Some educators have even suggested doing away with grades less than “C” to protect a child’s “self-worth,” or no longer using red ink because it could be similarly damaging to a student’s fragile psyche. Please.
In my humble opinion, that mindset breeds mediocrity and a sense of entitlement.
But withholding sincere, authentic affirmation from loved ones is equally destructive. Picture the parent who is endlessly correcting or telling a child what they need to "improve," much like a quality control expert in a manufacturing plant. Some fear that affirming a child will make them "soft." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Why, then, is affirmation so important and life-giving? And why is it so vital to put it in writing? Here are a few reasons:
- Celebrates a person’s unique gifts and abilities. Each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14) and each of us is different. Our fingerprints are all unique. So are our individual blend of attributes. There will only ever be one “you,” even if you have an identical twin or a doppelgänger! Affirming that uniqueness helps people blossom.
- Helps a person see what they often cannot see about themselves. There’s an old adage: “When you’re inside the jar, you can’t read the label.” Isn’t that the truth? The trajectory of a life can be changed because someone sees qualities or potential in us that we can’t see. And they tell us. They “pour courage into us.” (My favorite definition of encouragement!) They awaken us to possibilities.
- Is an antidote for comparison, which Teddy Roosevelt accurately called “the thief of joy.” Instead of focusing on the qualities and talents we lack, affirmation from a trusted source helps us focus on “what’s right about us,” and encourages us to develop and use those qualities.
- Helps us deal with failure and rejection. Let’s face it. Hard things come into every person’s life. Losing a job, a relationship or a physical ability can be devastating, especially in a world that equates worth with performance. By affirming someone, you help them focus on what’s “right” about them. Your affirming words can help a person regroup after loss by encouraging them to refocus on their best qualities and attributes.
- Encourages us to press on when we don’t see desired results. In this microwave, instant society, it’s easy to expect success to come quickly. When that doesn’t happen or when results happen more quickly for friends (that old comparison trap again), it’s easy to lose heart or doubt ourselves. As Thomas Edison so aptly noted: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Wise words from a man who knew something about being resilient! Sincere, meaningful affirmation can be just the “press on” message a person needs.
Pause for a minute and think about the people in your orbit. Who comes to mind that could use some words of encouragement and affirmation? Yes, sending a text is fine, but how about exerting just a little more effort and putting it in writing the old fashioned way…on a piece of paper, sent with a stamp! That way it can be read and re-read, and, as the saying goes, "memories fade, but ink lasts."
Your message doesn’t need to be long. A few words of belief and some specific affirmation of what’s so special about a person could be just the lifeline they need at a difficult time in their life. We often don’t know the moments of darkness that people face. Shine some light today and send out some words of affirmation.
You’ll be glad you did.
photo credit: Giorgio Travato