Monday, November 23, 2015

Affirmation Affliction

Early in my marriage, and for more than 20 years into it, my criticisms of my husband and he of me were not legitimate because they originated from a place of self-centeredness (the same is true for our parenting). Even if the criticism was of an obvious behavior, like not keeping the house clean, the criticism arose from a place of personal displeasure and not from an other-centered desire for the well being and maturing of the spouse.

Only when God, through the ongoing process of His Word, Holy Spirit and the authority and saving grace of Jesus Christ, showed me that I was allowing the little world I lived in to revolve around me in every way, could I begin replacing my perspective with the Triune God’s.

When we begin to unwrap the layers upon layers of why things bother us, or why people frustrate us, or why some people do one thing and it drives us crazy, but another person—or even I—do the same thing and it doesn’t, we begin to see that our take on things, left to itself, leads to tension.

A major culprit in all of this is our incessant need for affirmation, which is a rampant form of pride. We feel that we need to affirm our rights, unmet needs, goals, hopes and opinions. And we need to have others affirm us through reading our minds, understanding us, always saying the right thing to us, never stepping on our toes, handling us gently, knowing our preferences and, especially, meeting our physical needs and emotional neediness.

However, much of what we call “affirmation” is merely appeasement, enabling and tolerating. Is that what we want? To be enabled, appeased and tolerated? That is often the “affirmation” we receive for constantly affirming ourselves vocally in our conversations, actions and attitudes. It is a vicious cycle: I outwardly affirm myself in hopes that I strong-arm the affirmation I desire back from others. What a way to live.

Affirmation, in its holy and right state, is of God, from Him and through Him. He will never affirm self-centeredness. And He will give us all the time in the world to come to the epiphany that self-promotion and self-satisfaction is exactly what we have been trying to obtain!

We need to get it though our head—and to our heart—once and for all that only God can affirm and He will only affirm what is in His will to affirm. This is what sets us free from the neediness of our own, and others, affirmation. This is what allows us to rest completely in Him, and not in ourselves or others.

How do we get there? It can be a complicated process, and an ongoing one at that. Yet it always comes down to how much time in honest reflection—in total openness to God’s estimation of us—we are willing to commit, always and only before God. Past and present feedback from others may or may not be helpful. In every moment we stand before and answer to God, and He will never give His peace where it isn’t. So we check our hearts, which can be deceitful beyond measure, constantly with Him.

And whatever God affirms—through His Word, Holy Spirit and Christ—we go with. And whatever He doesn’t, we don’t.

copyright Barb Harwood

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

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