How Do I Love You, Let Me Count the Ways

by gloriam on February 2, 2011

February–the month of love and valentines. Some of my younger friends think Valentine’s Day was created by Hallmark. Others love the tradition of St. Valentine and a special day to tell someone dear “I love and appreciate you.”  I want to remind you of the importance of affirmation. Early in our marriage, my husband and I attended a marriage enrichment retreat. One of the many gems that we gained from that experience is the importance of affirming each other daily. David and Vera Mace, founders of the Marriage Enrichment movement, remind us that affirming one another is at the heart of a good relationship. I believe that affirmation is important in couple relationships and, likewise, in ALL relationships.

Affirmation is important in our relationship with our self. We are unaccustomed to affirming ourselves for a job well done. Think for a minute about the last project you worked on, a presentation you prepared for, a test you studied diligently for, the fabulous meal you prepared. What were the messages that ran through your mind? Did you say to yourself “Wow, I did a really good job” or were you more likely to say “if only I had prepared more, if only I had said ____.” Many times we are our own worst critic and acknowledgement of self is quiet difficult.

Affirmation is important in family relationships because it helps create respect, love, and safety. I was recently reminded of the many ways that we teach children, especially informal teaching. Dorothy Law Nolte’s poem “Children Learn What They Live,” (see link for the full text) is especially poignant as she reminds us that when children live with criticism, hostility and ridicule they learn hatred and condemnation. Similarly when children live with encouragement and affirmation they learn confidence and love. As parents, we often get so busy teaching our children the things we think are important, we forget the importance of affirming them when they get it right. Next week pay particular attention to how many times you catch your children doing well. Affirmation and respect flows both ways between parents and children, no matter how old we are.

Affirmation is important in work and business relationships. Bosses Day, Administrative Assistant’s Day, Employee Appreciation Day, Teacher Appreciation Day are times set aside by business to acknowledge a job well done. However, affirming and saying thank you is important throughout the year. Affirming a co- worker for her help with your presentation, acknowledging your boss for his support, admitting and apologizing to others for your mistake or loosing your temper are ways that we support and affirm in our work relationships. We know smiling as we answer the phone is an important element in customer service and goes a long in good work relationships. Difficult conversations often go better when begun with a word of praise and affirmation. Think of other ways to add affirmation to your daily work environment.

DeWitt Jones, a photographer for the National Geographic, says that creativity takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. I believe that affirmation can take an ordinary relationship and make it an extraordinary one. The old adage that my mother told me comes to mind– you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I hope that you will count many ways that you affirm yourself, a family member, a colleague, or a friend. I encourage you to begin today to turn ordinary relationships into extraordinary ones

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