News Articles

Affirmation can warm hearts of most families, Pettit says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Is the climate in your home a bit chilly where words of love and warmth are rarely uttered?

Steve Pettit, preacher and workshop leader for a LifeWay Christian Resources-sponsored Minister’s Family Weekend, suggested a good remedy for icy cohabitation is a steamy dose of affirmation.

“I don’t know anything in family enrichment you can do that can more richly affect the climate than practicing affirmation consistently in your home,” said Petitt, pastor of Centerpoint Christian Fellowship, Gainesville, Fla., and a counselor and leader of discipleship and family life conferences throughout the country.

Pettit was the workshop preacher for Minister’s Family Weekend, June 21-24 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. Minister’s Family Weekends offer church leaders and their families an opportunity to relax together, study the Bible and become reacquainted with each other away from the stresses of ministry.

“Christian families have a lot of work to do in the area of affirmation,” Pettit said. “According to a recent study, for every one positive comment in the average Christian home, there are 10 negative comments.”

Remember that the ice age is what caused the dinosaurs to disappear, Pettit joked. “When somebody in the house starts acting like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, our first inclination is to be bigger and badder dinosaurs.”

But the Bible tells Christians to outdo each other in showing honor, he reminded.

Pettit said there are many ways to show affirmation, and anybody can do it — even those who did not grow up in loving and affirming families.

“Affirmation is a skill. That means any one of us can do it. You can’t hide behind a family who was not affirming,” he said. “But for many it doesn’t come easy.”

Showing others love through words or deeds is hard work, Pettit acknowledged.

“Loving a person so that they know they are loved by you requires you to pay attention. One way to do that is by affirming them.”

He cautioned that affirmation is not flattery. “Flattery has strings attached; affirmation is a pure gift. It has nothing to do with whether you’ve earned it or deserved it.”

People can affirm others by considering their needs and helping them through times of trouble or difficulty, Pettit said, recalling a time when one of his children was sick and in the hospital for a year. A couple in the church where he was pastor would pull up in front of his house every Wednesday evening with a six-course meal, complete with throwaway plates and plastic ware.

“They would say, ‘If you’re too busy to cook it, you’re too busy to clean up after it.’

“One expression of affirmation is consideration, when people do things for you. That tells you they are thinking about you and they are concerned about you.”

Gratitude or compliments are other ways to affirm, he said, as is sending or leaving special notes.

“Those expressions keep people energized. When someone pays attention to us, it strengthens us, energizes us,” he said.

Find out what makes a family member feel loved, Pettit suggested.

“I asked my son how he knows if I love him and he said, ‘When you tell me, Dad.’ I thought buying him a hamburger and a shake would let him know I loved him, but those acts of kindness didn’t communicate love to him. He knew it when I told him.”

Pettit suggested parents have each family member fill in the blank, I know I am an important part of this family when … or I know I am loved when … .

The byproducts of affirmation are worth the trouble it takes to give it, Pettit said.

Self-confidence goes up; stress levels go down, he said. “When you receive affirmation, it’s easy to give it back.”

A person’s desire to please is rekindled. “When you feel appreciated, you want to go on. You’re motivated.”

In a family where affirmation is absent or waning, conflict resolution is difficult, Pettit said.

“It’s much easier to sit down and work out a problem with somebody if you know they are on your side. Affirmation beautifies the recipient. See if the climate around your home doesn’t change when you begin affirming your children or your spouse.”

One of the most powerful ways to affirm people is by listening to them, he said.

“Give them your undivided attention. There may not be anything that confers more esteem on any person of any age, and it only takes 90 seconds to learn to be a good listener. But it takes a lifetime of practice.”

Being a good listener requires you to empty yourself of your own agenda, Pettit said.

“You can’t be a good listener if you are trying to cure them or fix their problem.”

Petitt suggested each person attending the conference begin giving out at least one affirmation per day to others in their families.

“Create an atmosphere that warms the heart of every member of your family.”

Minister’s Family Weekends are held twice each summer, once at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina and once at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico. For more information about the 2003 events, call or (615) 251-2955 or e-mail [email protected].
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WORTH THE EFFORT.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey