Why do we insist on eating hard, pastel-shade candies in the shape of mini-hearts around Valentine’s Day? Right now, I am eating some; I assure you they are really not that appetizing. In fact, a whole box is scattered on my kitchen table, and I am noticing that they declare, whoever is reading them, is “cute stuff,” and requests are made such as “kiss me,” “be mine,” and “call me.” Are we really willing to put up with the crusty taste and texture just for a few clever phrases? Stale candies aside, what word should we really stamp on our hearts this Valentine’s Day? Valentine sweets may be making a multitude of promises and promptings, but we must turn our hearts to one Word, and that is Jesus. He is the Word made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). And if this Word is our guide, how can our words shape the lives of others?
Have you ever stopped and thought about the importance of words? Words have the power to uplift or to teardown. Just the other night my friend and I got to talking about words. More specifically, we were talking about affirmation and compliments, and I was reminded of a book I recently read by Gary Chapman titled The Five Love Languages. If you have not read it, I highly suggest it. In this book, he speaks about how each of us has a unique language of both receiving and giving love. Just like, if you speak English and someone tries to communicate with you in German, you won’t get very much out of the conversation. Verbal exchange only works when we speak each other’s language, well the same principle applies to our hearts. One of the love languages he mentions is “words of affirmation.” I don’t know about you, but this is huge for me!
How many of us can say we get affirmed on a regular basis? I may get a few compliments on a good hair day, or when my dangly earrings catch someone’s eye, but do those comments affirm me? What do I mean by affirm? For me, there is a real difference between someone offering affirmation and someone giving a compliment. Compliments aren’t bad, but they are fleeting. The effects last but a few fading seconds, and soon the temporary smile weakens. Mostly, compliments are surface ranging from the boots you are wearing to your pink fingernails. Don’t get me wrong, I like receiving compliments, but they aren’t the kind of thing that make me feel loved. I need words that fuel me, and keep me going. Such energizing words arrive through affirmation. Words that affirm differ from words that compliment, by the depth that they both comment on and seek. Affirmation is about recognizing our unique qualities, talents, and abilities, the things that make us who we are. Remarks such as, you truly radiate kindness, you have such a beautiful way about you, you are an amazing artist, you have a true talent for public speaking, you have some incredible soccer skills, are all examples of affirmation. Even comments on our sparkly eyes or cute shaped ears are affirmation. These things are things that we were born with or have worked to become.
So maybe we can all recognize, that all of us like to be affirmed, but do we seek to affirm others? Why is it so hard to affirm those around us? I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think some of us have convinced ourselves that by pointing out someone else’s qualities we are some how deflating ourselves. It’s as if we feel we’ve lost something by giving something to someone else. So our lack of security and confidence in our own package keeps us from building up others. Well, let me be the first to say, you will not lose anything by affirming others. Instead, I think such loving words will become contagious. When we feel loved, we have more to give to others.
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:16). Let’s do ourselves a favor and throw out those hard heart candies we have been eating, and replace them with the stuff that keeps our hearts beating. No more settling for cheap words, or holding back loving affirmation. This Valentine’s Day I challenge you to send out a real Valentine’s, maybe a hand written note filled with authenticity. Be creative!