"Validate ~ Verb"
A letter from Tim
To have someone who will, as my old therapist Al Turtle said, “Speak out loud, and bear witness to the sense of another person”. No matter how odd that sense may seem to us.
Al also said, “People will give up almost any ‘bad’ behavior, if instead they will feel understood.” If you've ever been in a room with someone whose sole purpose is to understand you, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s practically an out-of-body experience. You find yourself sighing,
Finally. Someone understands. Somebody gets me without trying to fix me.
Contrast that with those who invalidate you or that validate only for show. They play the part of “looking interested” but their mind is far away in some distant land. They nod their head when you talk but won’t hold your gaze. They finish your sentences and push your further and further away. You come away wondering why you even bothered sharing with them.
Advice has its time and place but it should be the exception rather than the rule. James said, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) Advice should be ripped from our hands instead of being spewed upon someone who never requested it. Even when people ask us for advice or wisdom most often I don’t think they’re really seeking either one. They’re seeking validation. They’re looking for someone to answer the door so they can come in from the cold.
My wife and I were surprised when our teacher didn't fix all of our problems. We thought that’s what therapists did? We’d wait for him to unveil his next “tool” for our next problem but oftentimes it never came. Instead, he’d simply validate both of us individually. He was a witness to each of our sense. He’d say things like, “I see why you did that! Of course you responded that way based on what you've just told me! Of course that was your mindset! I understand you now. I see your sense! That’s normal.” Normal. With one simple word he confirmed our humanity and our sanity. He calmed the storm without fixing a thing. We were among the living after all! So much so that many of our seemingly epic personal “issues” were completely disarmed. We realized, over time, that we’d given incredible power to our problems because we thought we were weird and defective. Our issues had defined our relationship.
No. We were human beings. Normal, everyday human beings knit together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). It only took a teaspoon of validation from one man to undo in a second a lifetime of lies. Such is the power of listening.
Deep down we all want to be a confident. But that title comes at a cost. It will come at the cost of having your humanity laid bare before the ones you love the most. Those you want to fix the most. At first, you'll feel naked. You'll feel powerless and vulnerable. You'll think, I suck at this. But your feelings don’t have anything to do with your effectiveness. You’re doing it. It’s a process. Michael Jordan wasn't draining 3’s right out of the womb.
If you choose to step out in this area you’re in for a fist fight. You've thrown the first punch and the enemy has stepped into the ring. The tentacles of control will slither back over the deck of your ship to drag you back into the murky depths. You'll have to fight it. The enemy knows that if we’re the one’s solving each other’s problems there’s no room for the Holy Spirit to do his perfect work. It’s godless therapy. Truly.
When the fight comes, focus on the fruit of your decision and what God is doing through you. Like Paul said,
“Whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) Here’s what happens next.
Your relationships will become deeper, richer, and more fulfilling. Frustrations within those relationships will dissipate because at long last you’ll understand why those closest to you act the way they do. It’s because, for once, you remember what they told you that late night on your couch over a hot cup of coffee. You understand them now. They shared with you and you had the wisdom to be still, listen, and not take what they said personally. You now see how their behavior aligns perfectly with their sense. You may not agree with them, but like Al says, “Agreement has nothing to do with understanding.”
Before long your own behavior starts to change. You'll come to know the true meaning of freedom simply because you’re not burdened with the obligation of providing an answer to everyone’s problems. You go from the Answer Man to God’s Man. You'll hear yourself saying things like, “I don’t have the answer to that, but I'll walk with you through this.” Folks, that is a statement that will earn you more credibility with a friend than a thousand solutions.
If validation were an Olympic sport my wife would have a room full of gold medals. She listens. She peers into my soul. She puts on her head lamp, takes my hand, and journeys with me deep into my iceberg. Into places I never knew existed. She doesn't bring a tool box to fix anything and she doesn't point out the mess. We just walk together.
She does the listening.
Jesus does the fixing.
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