“You, guys, are awesome!” my husband would randomly blurt out while driving the family in the van or as we watch tv or eat at table. Every now and then while going through the family room, I would tell my family, “You are my favorite guys/girls in the whole wide world.” Downtime might be a window of time when there is reduced or no significant activity among members of the family and could be a chance for a much needed break but downtime is the best opportunity to verbally or non-verbally express affirmation of the uniqueness, goodness and value of our loved ones to them.
To express the value of our loved ones to them during times of inactivity is to affirm their value of being who they are and not associated with anything they do or say, nor connected to any ability, talent or moral attribute they may have. It is more significant than building self-esteem because it is not performance-based or founded on extrinsic aspects.
Words and actions of affirmation communicate to our loved ones that we are glad they exist; we let them know that we perceive their inherent worth as an individual person. This helps them to recognize their intrinsic value and help them not to construct their value and identity in what they can or cannot do, what they have or do not have, and what others say or do not say.
For Their Sake
A spouse’s words and actions have remarkable influence; children look up to their parents and want their approval. The affirmation received from the family leads to feelings and ideas of being unconditionally loved for one’s own sake. Affirming our loved ones mirror to them the unconditional love of God, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” (1 John 3:1) God puts infinite worth in us as His children and He loves us without reservations.
Sowing in Peacetime
As we affirm our family members regularly, it also serves to remind us of their true value so that we do not become complacent in our relationship and take them for granted. Affirming words and actions build and strengthen our relationship with them, maintaining an open and free-flowing connection from our heart to their hearts.
The time to build and strengthen our relationships is during times of peace – when sowing seeds of love can easily take root. When conflicts arise and relationships are tested, the roots of our relationships are well established.
Shields From Lies
When relationships are inevitably accosted by waves of conflict and disagreement, we and our loved ones can be confident that they do not endanger the whole relationship; these challenges may rock the boat, even violently, but they will not threaten to capsize it. Affirmation of our loved ones during the downtimes acts as armors and shields from lies that easily beset many of us when our relationships hit rough waters and emotions run powerfully negative; lies like, “She really does not love me,” or “My dad hates me,” or “I am really bad.”
Rather, we can take struggles as just that – struggles – that we have to solve or persevere through together without questioning the foundation and integrity of the relationship or even undermine one’s worth. The anchor has to be in place. How can our loved ones understand the unconditional love of God? Do they have a clear grasp of how precious they are in our eyes?
The reality of unconditional love needs to be incarnated in our family relationships. Let us commit to love our spouse and children for who they are – just as God loves us completely and faithfully. Let us be people of affirmation. Let us make good use of our downtime to highlight our family members’ inestimable worth.