Affirmation is important. It is saying, “Yes” to someone’s hopes, dreams, and goals. Henri Nouwen writes, “To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘Yes’ to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.” How well do we affirm (bless) others? How well do we nourish the divine seed in another? How well do we affirm our children? How well do we encourage one another? Affirmation, this “Yes” for another person has the power to turn that person inside-out and to turn the world upside-down.
The reason we fail in giving affirmation, I suppose, is our inability to get out of our own skins long enough to see what lies beneath the skin of the other person. We are always coming at other people from our world. To be able to affirm someone we need to enter their world. Sharing another person’s struggles, hopes, and dreams is to participate in a divine mystery. But we can never know this mystery nor can we affirm the person if we are always coming at them from our world rather than entering their world.
One way of affirming another, of saying,“Yes, is to give encouragement. This is so simple, yet so seldom given. We tend to be critical of others, putting them down rather than lifting them up. We come at them from our world, telling them what we think they need to be and to do. A Methodist Bishop told the following story:
A Pastor-Parish Relations committee approached their Bishop to say that they wanted to be relieved of their pastor. His preaching was extremely poor, they said, and they would just love to have another church take him off their hands. The Bishop thought for a moment and then suggested that every Monday morning, members of that committee and congregational members as well, call the pastor and tell him what a wonderful sermon he gave on Sunday (“Yes, Yes, Yes), and that they do that continually. What will happen, the Bishop told them, is that he will either become such a great preacher that some other church would be glad to take him off their hands, or he would work so hard that he would die trying to preach the very best that was in him. Saying, “Yes,” affirming, encouraging another can make that kind of difference.