“You know, when I see these things, I always am reminded of how we need to live our lives. Sometimes I forget that,” my friend told me as we stood in front of the Twelfth Station of the Cross, the station in which Jesus dies upon the tree.
“Well we can either be dead fish going along with the tide or alive and going against it,” I responded.
“That doesn’t make the struggle any easier,” he told me back.
And it isn’t easy. We are constantly struggling to live our lives as holy people, and it is especially hard when we feel like we’re alone. We’re scared, sometimes even terrified, of what people might think of us, yet somehow we have to find a way to carry on and keep fighting the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7).
This is where affirmation is needed.
I saw that
Affirmation is the acknowledgment that an act is good or that someone has done something good. In essence, it acts as a compliment, but in a much more powerful way.
Rather than being about something unimportant like those cool polka dot socks your friend is wearing, affirmation is an acknowledgment of goodness that says, ‘Hey, I saw that, it was awesome, and you should keep doing it.’ Affirming someone is giving them a gift, and it serves a threefold purpose in our lives.
Don’t Give Up
When I go through life, I sometimes despair in myself and forget all the good I do amidst my own sin. Sometimes I might even recognize the good, but feel like no one else is noticing that it is good and ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Some people don’t need the recognition of others, but others desperately do. Affirming someone prevents both of these things.
For the first, the person is reminded that they are a child of God and that they do good things. For the second, the person receives the recognition he or she needs to keep themselves on the right path.
Looking for the Good
Affirming someone else also helps us on our own spiritual journey. Oftentimes we too get caught up in the bad things that people do; however, when we seek to affirm good deeds, we become more aware of the good in others. We begin to see and look for Christ in others rather for their imperfections.
Affirmations let others see good deeds getting praised, whether it be in a public social setting or on social media, rather than the usual immorality that society at large promotes or complains about. These affirmations can have an impact, especially in college, on someone who just witnessed the affirmation. Too often we think we need to be cool by going with the tide, when in reality when we swim against it we receive far more respect. Affirming someone lets others see that respect in action.
Fighting the Good Fight
As my friend said, knowing that we are not dead fish does not make the struggle for holiness any easier. The devil disguises himself when he comes to tempt us, and often times we don’t notice him or have a strong will to resist him. But when we have friends who will affirm us for making the right decision, we can make that choice much easier.
Two days after our discussion in front of the Stations of the Cross, I told my friend that if he was ever struggling, he could talk to me about it. I told him that the struggle was worth it, that he was doing the right thing in trying, and that I had the utmost respect for him in his attempts.
I supported him, I affirmed him, and I hope that when the devil comes knocking on my door he can affirm my path and keep me on the narrow way to Heaven.
So whenever you see someone act in a way that is truly good, acknowledge it with a few words of praise. The words do not have to be long or important-sounding, just as long as they are said and the person knows others have taken notice and appreciate the deed.