Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Affirmations and Moonwalking

I’m really bad at receiving compliments. I never know what to do with them. 

Do you return them: “You like my shoes? Thanks! I like your... um... hair?”
Do you agree: “I know, right? I am really smart and successful and everyone wants to be me! I’m glad you noticed too!”
Do you try to humbly discount it: "Oh it's nothing. Anyone can do the really cool things I do."
Do you awkwardly moonwalk away: “...”

My go-to response when someone tells me I look nice is “Oh thanks, I showered today!”
I’m not saying it’s a great response, but I like to believe it’s better than moonwalking.

I think we struggle with affirmation in Christian culture for multiple reasons. The first is because we’re afraid to take it at face value and it is as if we believe that there must be some ulterior motive. The second reason is that we get so caught up on the first reason, that we just stop trying to encourage others altogether. 

This has been an ever-relevant topic for me as a seminarian. I love to affirm people where they’re at. I love to leave notes outside doors, let people know they’re being prayed for, and tell them how I see God working in their lives. The thing is though, I think 82% of the time it’s either interpreted the wrong way or my fear that it will be keeps me from doing it in the first place. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve sent someone (read: a dude) a text saying I’m praying for them, and then I’ve sent another text forty minutes later saying, “Hey, I hope you know that I’m not trying to hit on you or anything. Just trying to be an encouraging friend.” (And on one occasion I sent a third text in which I apologized for the awkwardness of the second. It's a bad cycle to get yourself stuck in y'all.)

Confession: I’m just as guilty. When I’ve had others tell me they’re praying for me or that they hope I have a good day, I automatically assume that there is something deeper going on. So normally I don’t respond. Or I moonwalk away. 

Should it really be this hard to affirm the people in your life? I’ll readily admit that for as hard as it is to receive and internalize encouraging words, they can make my day better so easily. Earnest, uplifting words usually make me cry. And I'm not the type of person that's all into crying and talking about her feelings. YET, we all want to be known, understood, and loved where we are. I think we’re so afraid of sending the wrong message that we end up feeling isolated and discouraged.

I would like to live in community with people in such a way that we can perpetually be affirming, encouraging, and supporting each other without having to over think things. Life is so often tough and messy-- it would be nice to have people around that put Ephesians 4:29 into action. It would be nice to have people that truly try to say only what is good, helpful and needed for building up community so that it may give grace to those who hear it. 

Let’s go forward with that intention. 
Today, try to speak only what is kind, even if it's uncomfortable.


  1. love this. you are fantastic, hilarious, & I just love what comes out of that brilliant mind. xx

  2. This is exactly what I've been thinking. :-)