Affirmation

Found this lovely text by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn (Diocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, U.S.A.) some time ago:

Affirmation

You will recall that Jesus was walking down the street and Zacchaeus, a tax
collector, wanted to see him. Zacchaeus, short in stature, climbs up a tree so
that he can get a good look at Jesus. As He passes the tree Jesus looks up at
Zacchaeus and says, “Zacchaeus, come down. I must stay with you today.”
Zacchaeus was so thrilled with this simple acknowledgment on the part of Jesus
that he came down from the tree and said, “Here and now I give away half of
my possessions to charity, and if I have cheated anyone, I am ready to repay
him four times over.”

Jesus Christ was an affirmer. He affirmed youngsters when the Apostles were
ready to turn them away. He put His arms around them and laid His hands on them
and gave them His blessings. He affirmed a widow with a new sense of
importance.

Dr. Conrad Baars wrote a fine work entitled “Born Only Once.” The thesis of
Baars’ book is that there are many people around us every single day who are
waiting to be affirmed, waiting for the gift of the second birth, from an
affirming other. He goes on to say that affirmation must come from a deep
belief — the fruit of reflection that whatever God has created is good.

The affirmer looks at another and in some way says, “It is good that you
are.” “How wonderful you are.” The affirmer reflects a person’s
goodness back to him or her. In other words, being created by God sometimes
does not seem to suffice. That fact of creation needs continuation and
perfection by the creative power of human love in which we are able to say to
others, “You are good because you are you; because you have great worth being
your unique self.”

We do this by looking into the eyes of another; by smiling at the other; by
listening to another; and by expressing sympathy when another tries and fails.
Once we experience affirmation in our own lives, we want to share it with
others. Once we have been affirmed for what we are, then we have that power
within us to affirm others.

It is important for all of us to be sensitive to those around us who are still
waiting to be affirmed, for the gift of a second birth from an affirming other.
It is important that we become aware of opportunities that we have to enhance
or obstruct this second birth. Do we listen? Do we look into the eyes of
another? Do we smile at others? Do we let others finish their sentences? Do we
give people a moment’s attention so that they can feel as though we respect
their unique self, or do we nag and find fault more times than not?

What a wonderful opportunity it is for any parent to affirm the child. What a
wonderful opportunity we have for husband and wife to affirm one another. We
all have opportunities every single day to find fault, to find the negative and
celebrate it. However, how many more opportunities do we have to see the good
in others, the beauty of that good and to see the creative glory of God shining
over the other and celebrating that glory.

by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn


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