Friday, May 5, 2023

Just a Little Affirmation...

Maybe they should try reversing the national news cycle every evening. There is always that “feel good” clip at the very end. It allows the news anchor to leave you with a smile on her face after twenty minutes of bad news and eight minutes of commercials. Even the local news is beginning to follow the same pattern. Last night my wife and I just looked at each other when the first commercial happened. We couldn’t believe how we had heard one bad news story after another. Who wants to watch? How does it make us feel?

It made me think of how we’re taught to deliver bad news to others; only after the good news.You let the child know you will go to the park with them tomorrow, but you can’t go today. When you grade papers, you highlight the exceptional things in it before you mention the problems resulting in the poor grade. You agree with the angry customer about the faulty purchase, before you confirm you can’t reimburse, only replace. We believe that perhaps the bad news will sit better if it can rest in an affirming place.

The Children’s Creative Response to Conflict program has been around since 1972. It has transformed from a program specifically for children to one that also includes adults, (who can still be playful and learn from experiential, conflict resolution activities). The program focuses on activities that develop four themes: affirmation; communication; cooperation; and problem solving. The belief is that if we can build our skills in those four areas, we will be able to more successfully resolve any conflicts that come our way.

Affirmation, in my mind, belongs in first place. We should be able to affirm ourselves, and also affirm others. And that order is important. It’s often hard to be affirming of others if we are a shadow or a ghost of our self. Only a whole and healthy self is likely to give others a sense of wholeness and health.

We just returned from several days with extended family. They treated us to a wonderful view of the ocean from a beach-front cottage in Maine. Waking at 4:30 one morning, we sat for a bit watching the waves flow in and out and listening to the water-on-sand sound. One of the days we were surprised by a party, to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary. The whole experience was an affirmation of our marriage and the positive nature of family life (even when I lost at ping-pong, chess, poker and Exploding Kittens). 

I was heartened to see some positivity and affirmation expressed in an interview I caught on Fox News. It was with Republican Senator Rounds and Democratic Senator Gillibrand. They are both members of the Senate Bible Study group. Although their political convictions are often at odds with each other, they are able to communicate and work together because they affirm something together; their faith; which gives them a foundation on which to function without hostility and aggression.

That’s considerably different from what happened in a recent Congressional hearing where Marjorie Taylor Green stormed out of the hearing room, after calling Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas a liar, and then being silenced for her unruly behavior. One needs to see the video. There is no opening for any affirmation in her attack; haranguing him and making Mayorkas responsible for all of the fentanyl deaths in the country.

That kind of aggressive, blaming behavior is becoming all too common, in Congress and across our country. It’s ultimate expression is shooting a young boy at your door before he has a chance to discover he’s at the wrong house; or killing a young woman mistakenly in your driveway; or killing a neighbor for a loud leaf blower; or shooting up a school or place of work that has shamed or hurt you.

Even little affirmations help. As my wife went through the TSA check at the Sioux Falls airport on our recent trip east, the agent kept looking at her driver’s license, then at her, then the computer. Finally she asked her what her birth date was. When my wife responded, the agent said, “I can’t believe that.” The rest of the story is, when we got off the plane in Minneapolis, an agent was ready in the gateway with a chair to help any old person leaving the plane. He invited me to join him. 

Carl Kline

No comments: