Monday, August 28, 2017

When Did We Stop Affirming Each Other?


We hear it all the time as parents, teachers, and caregivers- affirming a child is vitally important to their personal growth and self-esteem. As someone who grew up singing or speaking in front of people, I also became used to being affirmed. Through the years, I have prayed fervently to maintain a humble heart. Everything that I do is an offering- an outpouring of myself, as one of the only ways I know how to give back and show my thanks and appreciation for the spiritual gifts that God has given me. I don't take the acceptance of those gifts lightly, and try my very best not to ever take them for granted.

Years have gone by and I almost wish that I could go back and recall every 'job well done,' I have ever received. A kind word certainly makes the soul soar. As time has passed, I've noticed that affirmations have dwindled, and I've been left wondering... why?

I began to pay more attention, making sure that I was still doing the best job possible (in all of my many roles)... and sure enough, I felt like I was. The thing of it all remained a mystery to me, and then I began to take notice that there were still certain groups of people who would meet me with warm smiles, hugs, and a word of thanks or encouragement. I noticed that the dead affirmation zone was among peers- people my own age, or close to my age. I'm not a psychologist, so I don't have any evidence or solid factual explanation as to why Millennials don't affirm one another. Millennials have been tagged 'the lost generation,' and as I scour Google for articles and 'answers', I can certainly see why we're labeled as such. There's a stigma floating around that Millennials just don't care- about anything, but I don't buy that, and of course, it doesn't apply to ALL Millennials.


The more I wondered about the reasons why Millennials tend not to offer affirmations, the more I reflected on the subject and asked myself a hard question- Am I affirming my peers? My peers are much like me- they're parents, they work part-time or full-time, their spouses or partners are insanely busy, we're all worried about the safety of our children and our communities, we're worried about what retirement will look like (if we ever even get to retire), and we're all struggling to come up for air. We do a week's worth of work in a 12 hour work day, and we don't know how to take time off to relax or just enjoy someone else's company. We're workaholics- and that's the idea that we've been fed by our culture... work, work, work and we'll have money, money, money, so we can have more and more stuff that we don't need and will never use. We don't need each other anymore- we can all work independently from remote locations and we don't need actual human interaction to thrive.

We do need human interaction, though. The more I allow myself to open up and become friends with other women, the more I realize it. How did I survive before I had a close circle of gal pals? How was I able to lead a balanced life without their support? They don't have to come right out and tell me that I'm doing a good job as a parent or in my profession or volunteer roles... my friends choose to spend time with me, and I with them. We sit and talk, listen, and lean on one another for support. We affirm one another with smiles and laughs over coffee, or even quick texts and messages on social media. This is how we communicate.


So many of us are in 'thankless' jobs or roles, and that's okay because we know in our hearts that we're not in it to be showered with 'thanks.' It does the soul a heap of good, though, when we do reach out with that smile, hug, text, phone call, coffee date. It will make someone's day when you send a quick note of thanks or let them know that they're rockin' whatever it is they do best. It's not about feeding anyone's ego- it's about feeding their soul and giving them a little boost of encouragement to keep forging ahead, even when the road looks as though it might get rocky.

Sitting down to write this, I am reminded to share affirmations daily- with my children, my spouse, my family members, my friends, my peers, and the people who are a part of my community- church, school, work, etc. Something that might seem juvenile might just make someone's day or give them that push they've been so desperately waiting for. I'll carry on with my servant's heart, expecting nothing in return, counting the cost, and thanking God for the opportunity to make sacrifices that make a difference. At the same time, I'll remember to say 'thanks' to those who need and deserve to hear it, and friends, everyone needs to and deserves to hear it- kids, young adults, Millennials, mid-lifers, seniors... all of us.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 
(Proverbs 12:25).

Who will you affirm today?

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