March 14, 2012

The Choice of Affirmation

The Choice of Affirmation                           [Main Story]

A dictionary definition of affirmation is the act of affirming or a positive assertion made about someone.1 In general, relationship experts suggest that affirming a person with whom one is in relationship is wonderful for the person being affirmed, for the person doing the affirming, and for the relationship between these individuals.

When parents choose to affirm their children, such an undertaking helps to create in those children a strong and positive self-esteem. Positive self-esteem, of course, produces feelings of belonging, of being capable. and of being loved.

Affirmation between spouses—also a choice—is truly the stuff that makes for stronger and healthier marriages, and for a happier and more peaceful home environment. If it is true that trying to develop a relationship without communicating is like trying to make orange juice without oranges,2 it also is true that happy couples experience five times as many positive interactions than negative ones.3 We call this affirmation.

The apostle Paul declared in Galatians 5:22, 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”4

An inventory of virtues contrasting the ones presented in Galatians 5:22, 23 are found in verses 19-21 of the same chapter: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

While the works of the flesh are naturally exhibited in the lives of human beings, the lifestyle illustrated in verses 22 and 23 is not produced by one who simply professes to be a believer, but by the Spirit of God working through a person who has chosen Christ every day.

To practice a life of affirmation—which represents the Spirit of Jesus—we will need to make the choice each day to live as Jesus lived. For this kind of existence to become operational in our relationships with our spouse, children, and others, we have to do as Paul declared in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Is it your custom every day to affirm the people in your household and those you come into contact with? These individuals may be your spouse, your children, your parents and siblings, your in-laws, your neighbors, your coworkers, your employees, the shopkeeper, the rickshaw driver, and anyone else. If this is not your current custom, you can choose to make this your way of life.

The more you choose to affirm people, the more you will feel and be like Jesus. The more you choose to rely on Jesus, the more likely you will be to produce the fruit of the Spirit. The more often you choose to live your life in this way, the more you will represent the kingdom of God and help create an atmosphere of love, peace, and grace in your home, church, and community.

Even in moments of difficulty and shame, Jesus found ways to affirm people toward wholeness. Jesus did so with the woman caught in adultery (John 8); with Zacchaeus, who climbed up the sycamore tree in Jericho (Luke 19); with the 10 lepers He found as He entered a certain village (Luke 17); and with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in a city called Sychar (John 4).

If we stay close to Jesus and choose Him every day, we, too, will receive power to live in positive and healthier relationships, and make our homes, our churches, and our world a better place. What’s more, we will be effective witnesses for Jesus.
Ellen White declares: “One well-ordered, well-disciplined family tells more in behalf of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached.”5

Affirmation is a sign of healthy family relationships. We pray you will make great relationship choices today!

1 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster’s Inc., 2003), p. 20.
2 D. H. and A. K. Olson, Empowering Couples: Building on Your Strengths (Minneapolis, MN: Life Innovations, Inc., 2000).
3 J. Gottman, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).
4 All biblical references are from the New King James Version.
5 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Publishing Association, 1952), p. 32.

Willie Oliver, Ph.D., and Elaine Oliver, M.A., are directors for the Department of Family Ministries of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, Maryland. This article was published March 15, 2012.