When “affirmation” becomes a dirty word….

The word “affirmation” has been presented in some contexts in a way that makes it appear downright negative, implying unhealthy neediness and codependency and a lack of personal self-worth……The need for affirmation is a legitimate human psychological need. If one’s need is a compelling urgency to have the approval of or identification with others, at the risk of compromising one’s own values, integrity, and personal agency, that is not affirmation. It is idolatry.Proverb…s 25:11 The Message (MSG)
The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
And a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.

Affirmations are important to each of us. They need to come at the right time, from an appropriately credible source, and have relevance to the need at the moment for the most value. But, as the proverb shows, reprimand is also valuable. Striking the right balance between the two requires wisdom that only God can provide, as God alone knows the true nature and depth of the need.

“Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years. Like other interventions and experiences, self-affirmations can have lasting benefits when they touch off a cycle of adaptive potential, a positive feedback loop between the self-system and the social system that propagates adaptive outcomes over time.
Whether people see their environment as threatening or safe marks a dichotomy that runs through research not only on self-affirmation but also on attachment, stress, and coping (see Worthman et al. 2010). Psychological threat represents an inner alarm that arouses vigilance and the motive to reaffirm the self (Steele 1988). Although psychological threat can sometimes trigger positive change (Rokeach 1973, Stone et al. 1994), it can also impede adaptive coping. People may focus on the short-term goal of self-defense, often at the cost of long-term learning. Like a distracting alarm, psychological threat can also consume mental resources that could otherwise be marshaled for better performance and problem solving. Thus, psychological threat can raise a barrier to adaptive change. Major life events, such as losing one’s job or receiving a medical diagnosis, can obviously give rise to psychological threat. But the self-integrity motive is so strong that mundane events can threaten the self as well and instigate defensive responses to protect it (Sherman & Cohen 2006).” (From an article on the psychology of change)

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