The Power of Encouragement and Validation

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I know we’re in a blog series on what I’ve learned in different areas of life, but reading an article by Michael Hyatt on the gift of validation (available in sources) really spoke to my heart. In the article, Hyatt has a video that shows the power of validation. It’s about 16 minutes long but worth the time. In the video, everyone comes to the guy for “validation” and he mentions something great about each person that comes to him. As a result, the person leaves happy and feeling better about themselves. Later on he encounters someone who he tries to give validation to but doesn’t smile. The fact that the person doesn’t smile discourages him and he stops smiling. Later on he finds out that the reason the person wouldn’t smile is because of something that took place in childhood. The story ends with her smiling and thanking the man for saying what he said about her. What this video shows is the power of speaking affirming and encouraging words to each. Today I want to highlight some principles as it relates to the power of encouragement and validation.

  1. Everyone seeks validation. Two of the needs talked about in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is esteem and love/belong. In other words, people want to feel good about themselves and belong. One way that both of these needs are met are through the vehicle of encouragement and validation. Why do you think there are people who are willing to stay in an unhealthy situation with an unhealthy person? Part of the reason is because they feel validated in someway by the person, even though that person is hurting them. What would happen if we were encouraged and validated by the right person? We would then have an environment of wholeness and health. All of us in this world want to be accepted and approved by others. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is healthy and doesn’t cause us to harm ourselves. Again, the key is getting that encouragement and validation from the right group of people.
  2. The right words spoken can be the difference between a person giving up or pressing forward. When you’re having a tough time in life, the last thing you need is a person being unnecessarily critical towards you. To be clear, I’m not saying that constructive advice (or criticism as most call it) isn’t necessary. The truth still has to be spoken. However, when a person is having a difficult time in their life, the best thing to do is help them move forward. Proverbs 18:21 makes it clear that life and death is in the power of the tongue. Many look at that verse in the context of prosperity, but think about what happens when you say “you’re a nobody and won’t be anything in life” vs “you can make it out of this.” A person who’s had a rough time in life will be more encouraged by the 2nd statement than the first. I just firmly believe that when people are going through a rough patch in their life (which we all will), the right words have to be spoken.
  3. While we must be honest with each other, too many times we focus on what’s wrong with us vs what’s right with us. In other words, instead of always focusing on our weaknesses, we should focus equally on our strengths. I like what Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak just tweeted. He said “There’s an inner accuser inside everyone’s head that tells them they’re a loser. Show some kindness. Tell them what they’re doing right.” I love this because he is so on point with this. To be transparent, in this season of life I’m in, I’ve experienced some failure. As a result, sometimes I’m focused more on what I’m doing wrong than what I’m doing right. I’m pretty sure athletes in sports have to deal with this mentally as well. When a person is struggling especially in a season of failure and difficulty, talk to them about their strengths. Let them be built up on their strengths and help them move forward. We live in a world that wants to remind us daily what our flaws are. And again I stress that there’s nothing wrong with being honest about our weaknesses, but psychologically it would benefit us to work on our weaknesses yet focus on what we’re good at. I don’t care what you’ve done in your past and where you’ve slipped up: you have some amazing strengths. Focus on that and keep pressing forward.
  4. A lot of people grew up in homes where validation wasn’t given. Lastly, I want to talk about one of the roots to why some people seek validation and encouragement in the wrong place. Unfortunately, there are many people who were raised in homes where the adults didn’t show love and affection. In those households, there was so much focus on achievement and getting things done that there wasn’t time to show the necessary love and affection needed. Some kids grew up in homes where the parents had their own struggles and instead of maintaining focus on loving the child, they were caught up in their own issues. When kids are not encouraged and validated at home, it sets them up to look for love and acceptance in situations that could hurt them long-term. I have read and heard over the years that this is a primary reason why some girls get pregnant early in life. Some believe that having a child will give them a sense of validation. While motherhood is one of the greatest joys of life, it also comes with huge responsibilities. To be clear, I’m not putting the whole issue on the ladies because men should have enough respect for themselves and the lady to either wait or if they go forth be committed to helping take care of the child. I firmly believe those of us who work with youth and are parents have to do a good job speaking words of encouragement and validation to our children. Stop telling the child what they can’t do or what they’re not good at. Find the strengths of the child and develop them. Help them cultivate the talents they have. So what your child doesn’t do well in math? You don’t keep reminding them that they struggle with it, but instead find their strengths and work with them on the math. My heart seriously goes out to children who have not been raised in affirming homes. In reality, the road for them may be more difficult, but I believe if they surround themselves with positive adults, they will be able to beat the odds.

The bottom line of this post is that we all need encouragement and validation. I challenge all of us to speak words of life and encouragement to everyone around us. Our world is a place of negativity already, so we should do whatever we can to speak positive words to one another. Life is tough and all of us are trying to survive and take care of our responsibilities. One positive word can be the spark someone needs to continue forward with what God has placed inside of them. But in reality, many of us have trouble encouraging others because we’re in need of encouragement ourselves. If you’re that person I’m talking to, I encourage you to take a moment and evaluate your circle. Your circle should have people who are honest with you yet be able to speak words of life to you. As they say, hurt people hurt people BUT I say encouraged people can encourage people!

Sources

http://www.researchhistory.org/2012/06/16/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/

http://michaelhyatt.com/the-gift-of-validation.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao (video on validation that I mentioned)

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