Affirmations might not help, either.

Affirmations might not help, either.
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You may have noticed in my last post about venting that I refrained from committing to the opposite of venting, which could arguably be affirmation. Part of the reason is that, in my experience, affirmations don't help in situations of extreme upset, either. Weird, right? Let me explain.

First, I'd like to state that this really could just be me. Unlike with venting, I wasn't able to find much science to back this idea that affirmations don't help. But that may depend on one's definition of "help." For me, help is anything that connects me back with the truth and with my primary relationships. Affirmations don't really do that for me. It feels like they bounce off me. Maybe because I'm more cynical than I'd like to believe I am. Maybe it's because I don't want to get my hopes up about something good only to be disappointed again. But it may also be because words are so important to me that I need to see them backed up by action, and affirmations are only half true when they're just words. More on this in a minute.

Second, I don't want to take away affirmations from anyone. If you find what you're looking for (and what you're looking for is healthy) via affirmations, that's great! Truly. I don't think there's anything wrong with that - this really is one of those 'you do you' scenarios. I'm just inviting us to think about how helpful affirmations really are because I used to believe they were really helpful, especially receiving them from other people, but I fell into this trap of chasing affirmations rather than the action that backed them up. And, in the area of romance at least, it kept me waiting for over a decade.

I believed that nice words were enough, that action - meaning true change, connection, healing, etc. - was just around the corner. Every time I would hear relational affirmations or affirmations of understanding or of coming to an agreement, I would feel less anxious, less alone. I would feel hope that my marriage was healing and that fundamental ingredients for a long-lasting relationship were coming. I was wrong and I wasted more than ten years because of pretty-sounding words. In my previous marriage, affirmations served as empty calories.

And in the area of self-affirmations, which many an online program teaches, including "Christian" ones, to the tune of minimum four-figure investments, of course, they didn't bring the fundamental mind/heart/thought-pattern change that I was desperately seeking. They bounced off of my deeply ingrained patterns of thought and emotion and the only thing that would have helped and eventually did help was taking every thought captive to Christ. The first step of this is taking the self completely out of it and acting like I actually believe the Scriptures when they say that apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

At this point, I am thankful that affirmation didn't work. If it had, I would have stayed in a toxic marriage and I would not have been driven toward the only true source of life and life everlasting: Jesus, who goes far beyond affirmation, but lays down His life to not only show us how to do so, but also so that we can be raised up to life eternally. Ain't no affirmation that can raise someone from the dead!