God-centered praise of those who are not God is not optional. A fire not stoked goes out. A refrigerator unplugged rots the eggs. A garden not tended erupts with weeds. Affirmation is the fire-stoking, refrigerator-electrifying, garden-tending side of relationships. Relationships in which commendable things are not commended, but overlooked, take on a flavor. The relationship is marked, and we take on a reputation to those around us.
Barnabas is called the “son of encouragement.” What’s my reputation? Mr. Crabby Pants? Old Lady Battle-Axe? Miss Nit-Pick? We bring refreshment to relationships when we unleash so many affirmations that those around us lose track.
I am not suggesting a checklist approach to life. Healthy affirming is more organic, a way of living. It’s more like romance than rocket science. It’s less like knitting (with its knit one, pearl two) and more like the weather – how much rain is enough? Well, that depends on how dry it’s been. And what are you trying to grow – a watermelon or a tumbleweed?
Jesus said, “As you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:41) If you didn’t affirm them, you didn’t affirm him.
The thing that compounds a deficiency in affirmation is a surplus of corrections in a relationship. Corrections outweigh affirmations. They have greater impact individually. The sting of rebuke outweighs the fresh whiff of a bouquet of affirmations. A person sniffing flowers when a bee stings quickly forgets the flowers, even if the bouquet is very large. If a pattern of corrections is outweighing the affirmations, the sting stays with us, and added corrections are like picking at the scab made by the sting.
A rash word is like a sword thrust (Proverbs 12:18). It only takes a moment to cut somebody with a sword, but it takes a long time to heal, and is aided by ointment, and even then it might leave a scar. Affirmations are like ointment that can assist the healing.
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]