June A.D. 2018

Information or affirmation? This was one of the most helpful questions I learned to discern from my training in pastoral counseling. I find it helpful both professionally and personally in nearly all my relationships.

See, most of the time when we’re engaged in a conversation that’s a little deeper than small talk, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, we’re almost always looking to give or receive one of those two things: information or affirmation. Because that’s how people are built.

A person gets built in two ways: they build up themselves and/or others build them up. Information provides us with the tools to build ourselves up. Affirmation is the way others build us up. We need both to become the people God made us to be.

If I tell a friend about an important decision I’m struggling to make, I’m probably looking for information, affirmation, or both. They might share with me information that I didn’t know before that tips the scales and helps me make the decision. Or they might affirm who I am and how I already have everything I need to make the decision, and suddenly the answer seems clear.

Either way, I’m able to move forward… I grow… I’m built up.

People get torn down in the same way: they don’t have good teachers… no one believes in them… or worse, we make others feel small with our words. We tear them down.

So it’s an important question to discern in every real conversation we have: are they looking for information or affirmation? Or maybe both? And sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we give them one when they’re looking for the other. We try to solve their problem when they actually just want someone to listen and feel for them. Or we express our sympathy when they’re actually looking for us to help them solve the problem.

In every real conversation we have, there is an opportunity for people to be built up. To become more themselves. To become more the person God wants them to be. So we equip each other with the tools we need for growing in life: wisdom, knowledge, faith, hope, love… information and affirmation. We are slow to speak and quick to listen. And whatever we say… however we respond… it’s imperative as Christians that we only use our words for building people up.

Blessings,
Pastor Jason

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
- Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)