How to Find Affirmation
There was one time I was rushing a business report that I skipped lunch. Yep, bad idea. When I discussed the report with a co-worker that mid-afternoon, I was already weak and cranky. My stomach was rumbling so loud that I couldn’t understand what the other guy was saying. Only after taking a very late lunch (at 3 pm!) did my focus and sanity return.
I wonder if many people feel that way, too. Not famished for food, but emotional nourishment. I am referring to that deep human need for affirmation. Some of us won’t admit it, but I believe all of us yearn to be recognized for our worth, what the Bible calls us “being made in the image of God”.
On the other hand, people get recharged from affirmation: a pat on the back, a sincere “well done” or as the Americans say, “Attaboy!” Mark Twain famously said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
I don’t think there is anything wrong in wanting encouragement. However, the problem is when we depend on it so much. Some people are addicted to approval. They go through emotional roller coasters: they are high when they are applauded and crash when they are not.
Therefore, it is much better that we learn to affirm ourselves. We heighten our appetite for excellent work such that it would not really matter if our employers commend us or not. We reflect God’s self-sufficiency as He created the heavens and the earth and called it “good.”
But there is a deeper solution to starving souls. It is to transition from man’s affirmation to God’s. That is why it is important to imbue our jobs with a divine purpose. Why do we work? It is not just to earn money, although that is good. It is being God’s partners to provide products and services to our fellowmen.
For example, have you noticed that God could have just dropped bread from the ceiling down onto our breakfast plates? But He chose the more “natural” way of allowing some people to be farmers to grow and harvest wheat, others to knead the dough and bake the bread, and still others to provide the capital to set up the bakery business itself. The farmer, baker and investors are all God’s partners to bring bread to people.
When we view our jobs this way, we want to know what our Heavenly Boss would say, not just our human bosses. Two of Jesus’ beloved parables end with an employer exclaiming, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master.”
Therefore, let us resolve to do a great job and trust that God is pleased, even if our superiors seem to withhold their appreciation. Once we mature in this area, we are ready for the next step: affirming others.
I am blessed by this advice from Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century preacher, “Do not ask to be appreciated. Never be so mean as that. Appreciate yourself in the serenity of conscience, and leave your honor with your God.”
Make it our life’s mission to be the best workers we can be. Leave our affirmation in the hands of God who sees all, judges impartially and rewards lavishly.
Photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado, Unsplash
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