No, I don’t do drugs.
Nope, no secret life of crime.
I’m an affirmation junkie.
But I take comfort that you are one too. You see, we are all affirmation junkies (except maybe some sociopaths). I love to have people’s approval. It’s one of my biggest fears in blogging that I am really just trying to sooth my affirmation habit.
In a real way, I should be an affirmation junkie. I should want desperately to be approved by God. Jesus treats that phrase, “Well done, good and faithful servant” to be a serious and honorable reward to seek. Think about it, how incredible would it be to be patted on the back by the creator of all things.
Unfortunately, I often prefer a much poorer substitute: you.
There is nothing wrong with your praise for me. The best of us are the one’s who praise God and others the most. I am reading a wonderful book by Sam Crabtree called Practicing Affirmation which is about how to wisely affirm others. Please read this book, particularly if you are a crank who never praises anything. To praise others can be wrong, to never praise others may mean you aren’t like God at all. He praises people. We should too.
By affirmation, I don’t mean flattery. If I say something positive about you for the purpose of getting you to do something for me. That is garbage. There are many flatterers out there and the scriptures clearly condemn the practice (Pro 29:5, Job 32:21-22).
I also don’t mean praising the insignificant. “Nice shirt” is praise, but of the smallest variety. These praises are the bulk of the affirming words that we as Americans give to each other. They feel shallow and meaningless because they are. No, there are better praises than that.
As Sam Crabtree argues, real affirmations are descriptions of how a person is displaying an attribute of God. If someone works hard, say that. God also works hard and they are being like God. If someone is kind or gentle or generous or humble, tell them so and remind them that they are being like God when they do these things. How substantive is that!
“It was so good to see you help that lady with her groceries. That looked like something Jesus would do.”
“The way you spoke to that angry customer was very gentle. That took patience.”
The nature of a good affirmation is actually delighting in the way they have imitated God. When people act like their creator, it is a wonderful thing.
But back to the original question, how can I like affirmation yet not idolize it. Jesus had some serious warning about seeking the praise of people. He also had serious promises about the praise God can give as a reward. So what do I do when someone praises me.
- Recognize that all the praiseworthy things in me are gifts from God.
- Not only are these attributes from God, but they are perfected in him. If I do something well, how much more magnificently does God do it.
- The real joy is in delighting in God getting praise. Not in keeping the praise for myself.
- Praise from people is to be joyfully accepted. What a sweet thing that someone can delight in my work. But it is not to be kept, as if the good quality were from me.
Someone once asked her (Corrie) how she could possibly handle all the compliments and praise that were constantly heaped upon her, without becoming proud. She said she looked at each compliment as a beautiful long-stemmed flower given to her. She smelled it for a moment and then put it into a vase with the others. Each night, just before retiring, she took the beautiful bouquet and handed it over to God saying, “Thank you, Lord, for letting me smell the flowers; they all belong to you.”
I think Tante Corrie is right on. Praise can be delighted in, but only for a short time. The real joy is getting the praise to the one who really deserves it. What is amazing to me is that he is the one who really deserves all praise, yet he takes the time to praise my good works that he caused.
What an amazing God we serve.