I’m still thinking about celebrating people since my last post (The Icing on the Cake)…
Last week was my husband’s birthday and we spent the day together with our kids at the zoo. Even though we planned with “fun for the whole family” in mind, it was a day all about dad. Showering him with attention and praise. Letting him choose lemon cake even if the kids wanted chocolate.
At dinner (rib-eye steaks on the grill at home) we went around the table and said our favorite things about Brian. Our 2-year-old said, “My favorite is when daddy holds me.” Our 4-year-old talked mostly about a “neighborhood cake” (?) that he thinks we should make with a blue car driving down the street. He did eventually say that he “loves it when dad draws him trucks and wrestles with him.”
It is essential for our kids to get used to this practice- to be intimate and vulnerable by affirming another person out loud.
The greatest way to celebrate someone is to tell them about the beauty you see in them. To speak of how they are a golden thread in the fabric of your life. I’ve learned that although we’d like to think we give our family and friends this gift every day, we don’t. It’s the sort of thing that we might do on a special occasion but that we must begin to do regularly.
A great example of this is in the movie Waking Ned Divine. It tells the story of an elderly man in a small Irish town (Ned) who wins the lottery and dies from the shock of it. Not wanting the money to go to waste, the village enters a pact to pretend Ned is still alive by having another man (Michael) pose as him, and then to divide the money between them. When the lottery official walks in during a wake for Ned (who is supposedly still alive), the man sharing immediately pretends the wake is for Michael (who is present in the audience and thus sitting in on his own funeral). The man says,
“Michael O’Sullivan was my great friend. But I don’t ever remember telling him that. The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral. To sit at the front and hear what was said, maybe say a few things yourself. Michael and I grew old together. But at times, when we laughed, we grew young. If he was here now, if he could hear what I say, I’d congratulate him on being a great man, and thank him for being a friend.”
This movie charmingly points out that we all too often wait until someone dies to say why they were special to us. What we should do is have a wake for the living.
Affirmation in its best form is both true and specific. The goal is to help others wake up to who God created them to be, not to feed the pride of constantly being consumed with self. When we attest to real and beautiful things, it allows people to construct a more accurate picture of who they are and ultimately believe the truth about themselves. In essence, to become more comfortable in their own skin. It combats the lies that they hear from themselves, the enemy and the world around them.
Can you picture the fabulous consequences? How we all might be different if we followed this practice of regularly affirming each other? I imagine this for myself…
Each time I affirm another person, my heart becomes more endeared to them. As I speak their virtues aloud, they become more lovely to me. I criticize less. I earn the place to speak the harder truths to them once in a while.
When I receive this sort of affirmation, I awaken to a more complete story of myself and I am more likely to be honest about my failures and areas of weakness. Then…the real beauty emerges. I start to become a whole person who wants to be myself and not everyone else. I start really believing that I am marvelously made, uniquely gifted, horribly imperfect, and able to be transformed.
Everyone needs to hear kind and true words that remind them that they are precious. Do it this week. It might feel hokey or unnatural to say out loud what’s in your heart, but you’ll get used to it. Even if it’s clumsy, it makes a difference. Let’s not assume that they already know. “The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead.” (Waking Ned Divine)