Words of Affirmation

Gospel Message & Recording

In one of the Gospel Readings ascribed by the Church for today, in commemoration of the Baptism of Christ, we hear that Christ went into the river Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, who was considered by the early Church as the forerunner of Jesus Christ and given an honored position, second to St. Mary, the Mother of God.

Advocates of adult baptism, to justify themselves, especially since Jesus is baptized as an adult, use this scene of baptism and say that since Christ was baptized as an adult in public, we as Christian-adults must receive baptism when we are adults in public as well. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Christ did not get baptized because he had to; but because he loved his Father. In the Gospel narrative, taken from St. Luke, God the Father, seeing his son about to be baptized, says, “This is my Son, in whom, I am well pleased.” This statement was not out of “need” but out of “love.” Christ baptism was a demonstration of genuine love between the Father and the Son. This love is expressed in the words of Father as stated already, “This is my son…” These were “words of affirmation” from the Father to His only Begotten Son. Such words, I believe, on a human and divine level, gave Christ the strength he needed to begin his ministry, for Christ’s baptism was the start of His ministry on earth.

What are “words of affirmation?” Words of affirmation are words/phrases/statements that demonstrate appreciation for someone’s accomplishments or good deeds. It is human to want to point out the bad or the faults of others, but as Christians, who are attempting to become Christ-like, we should use words of affirmation to highlight the best in other people. This is not say we need to “sugarcoat” everything. Where correction is needed; it is necessary and should be applied. Where truth has to be explained; then it should be upheld. That said, as leaders in the church, as people participating in the work that is being done here at St. Luke, are we using words of affirmation? Are we appreciating people, despite their shortcomings? Someone can do 70 things right but we will expound on the three things he or she did wrong. Words of affirmation can only be practiced in our lives if we love, as Christ loved us. Without the love of Christ, words of affirmation will only be a thought but never a genuine practice in our life.

As the heavenly Father gave words of affirmation to his only begotten Son, are we as earthly parents (fathers and mothers) providing words of affirmation to our children? Research has shown that affirmative words from the parents do wonders for a child’s success in life. Many people who have not received words of affirmation from their parents have long lasting negative effects.

Ways to actively practice words of affirmation:

  1. When someone is starting a new endeavor, job, ministry etc. it is important to encourage them by using words of affirmation. It’s easy to say “good luck” or “God bless you;” but how about saying words that have more depth which accentuate the persons qualities and express how they would do well in their new endeavor. Example: “I can see how your people skills, which is very good, will help you to become successful in your new job.”

  2. When correcting someone it is best to first state a positive quality (words of affirmation) about that person, or state a good thing they have done that you appreciate, and then step into the correction. Example: “You are a really good writer and know how to express your thoughts well. It is such a great skill to have. However, I think you can improve in your writing by using a higher level of vocabulary and checking your punctuation and grammar a bit more.

  3. There is a famous saying, “Don’t kick ’em while they are down.” Often, many people who have made a major mistake are fully aware of the fact they have made a mistake. It’s not our job to continue to grind in what they should have done right, or to constantly tell them what they did wrong. Of course, a proper treatment for their problems is necessary, but often there are people who are called to give such advice. This is in no way a sort of escape from reality but an approach that affirms, through words, that they can pick up the pieces, and through repentance and confession be able to bounce back and live a life for Christ.