It has been about two months since I started my latest adventure: a new job. On the one hand, I really can’t say it is new because I’ve been doing the job for months, but only recently could I actually claim the title (and get business cards – woohoo!).
I won’t bore you with the beginnings of this transformation, except to say that emotionally, it took me on a roller coaster ride I wasn’t prepared for. Part of the ride had me trying to find meaning and purpose in the tasks I was doing, hoping that I would not be confronted with those words any employee dreads: “we don’t have any place for you”.
When I thought about my journey, it reminded me of Jacob. Short story on Jacob, he was the “non-favored son”, who ended up trying to find his place in his family line. Originally he tried to do it by manipulation, but eventually tried to do it right. However, even when he did try to do it right he found himself on the outside of where he wanted to be. Jacob was so affected by the path his life had taken, and the fact that he felt like he didn’t have any rights in his own life he ended up wrestling with the angel of God all night…
I won’t let go until you bless me…
People have used this verse out of context as a selfish formula for a life of extravagance, but that was the furthest thing from Jacob’s mind. Jacob wanted restoration – to his uncle and ultimately to his brother. He wanted to get out of the limbo he was experiencing, the desert of his life, and feel the joy of being with those that he could call his own.
I remember the day my new boss told me that I had the job. That day, nothing changed, and yet everything changed. Internally I felt that I finally had a place – I no longer had to try to prove that I could do the job – I had been affirmed. I had been invited into the organization. With that I experienced a feeling of belonging. It was a good feeling. Still is.
There is something special that happens when someone, especially someone you respect and honor affirms you and your place in their life. That person could be a boss, a close friend, a loved one, or maybe someone you are developing a relationship with. That affirmation can happen in many ways – in a hand written letter, like the one I received recently from someone I admire. It could be an opportunity given to participate in something new, or something as simple as a hug. It doesn’t matter so much how they come. What is important is that they do come, and what happens when they do.
Affirming people is more than just words. My boss could have said he liked me and my work and still let me go. Affirming people is an outward demonstration of the other person’s value to you. It is declaring not only that the person is important in general, but that the person is important to me.
Jacob fought all night because he needed affirmation. It could be said that he had been fighting all his life for the affirmation, which is why he was such a brat. What might his life had been if he had been freely given the affirmation that he, and we, so need?
I would bet that I am not the only person who has felt like Jacob, who could benefit from someone giving them a home – a place of belonging. This makes me also think of how I can be that for other people. Because of this, I have started to be more intentional about being affirming to people around me. It is a challenge, but one well worth the effort.
There are so many people that I have in my life that are affirming, it would take forever to list them. However, I do want to note some that are making it a practice of affirming others:
Estrella Azul – Estrella recently updated her religion as “Love”, which I think is so cool. Not only does she make it a habit of affirming friends and loved ones, but she regularly participates in moreloveletters.com, which, if you don’t know about, you really should. You can see more of Estrella’s work at http://estrella05azul.wordpress.com
Hannah Brencher – founder of moreloveletters.com, Hannah started a movement all designed to bring those with love to give together with those needing love. Hannah’s movement has gotten such notoriety that she has appeared on Ted Talks. If you need to put anything on your bucket list, participating with Hannah in brightening up someone’s life with a love letter needs to be that one thing.
J. Clement Wall – Inspiring people to love, and to love well is a worthy task for anyone, and J does it as well as anyone could. Starting with the Love Project, and moving to A Human Thing, J challenges us to reach out, to challenge ourselves, to love in unconventional ways. J calls forth the best in people, and invites us to do the same in others. You need to be a part of this love phenomenon.
Chris Michaels – Many people have a testimony that comes when everything “gets better”. Chris’ testimony kicked in when everything was going crazy, and fueled a fire in him that is touching many people. “Picked for His Purpose” is bringing the community together to feed the less fortunate by simply allowing Chris and his volunteers to pick and prune people’s fruit trees, and give the fruit away to food banks or anyone in need. In a short very short time, Chris and crew have donated close to half a ton of fruit, and show no signs of slowing down. You can find out more about Chris at http://chrisamichaels.com, or picked4purpose.org.