The Blessing of Affirmation
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Matt and Lisa JacobsonMatt Jacobson was an executive in the publishing industry for 25 years and has been a teaching elder/pastor at Tumalo Bible Fellowship for the past 16 years. Matt is also the founder and teacher at FaithfulMan.com, an online social media community focusing on the topics of marriage, parenting, and biblical teaching. He is the author of 100 Words of Affirmation Your Wife Needs to Hear and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. He lives with his wife,...more
Husband and wife team Matt and Lisa Jacobson talk about the importance of affirming your spouse. Dave and Ann Wilson tell how a positive shift in outlook changed their marriage for the better.
The Blessing of Affirmation
Bob: Do you remember the old folk song, Home on the Range?—“where seldom is heard a discouraging word”? Matt and Lisa Jacobson say, “It’s different in our day.”
Matt: Everything about what the culture has to say to your wife is negative: “You’re not enough of this,” “You’re too much of that,” “You don’t measure up here,” “You’re beneath standard there.”
How many moms feel like they’re just doing an amazing job at home, raising those kids?—and “Man, you’re just winners at this mother game”? [Laughter] How many wives out there are feeling like that?
Lisa: Everything is against us.
Matt: Okay; there is a voice; it’s just sitting right on your shoulder, saying, “Yes; you’re failing again. You’re not…” “Oh, you let down again,” “Oh, look, you didn’t measure up again.” All of these things conspire to cause a wife to feel diminished in the world.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 24th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you say something positive and encouraging to your spouse today, it may be the only positive or encouraging thing your spouse hears all day; so why not be their cheerleader? We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m guessing that, in your career as an athlete, you were a—
Dave: —looong time ago.
Bob: You were a high school quarterback; you were a college quarterback; you’re in the Ball State University Hall of Fame.
Ann: He has been inducted probably four times in the Hall of Fame.
Dave: Honey, what are you trying to do right now?
Ann: You’re pretty fantastic!
Dave: You don’t go around telling people this.
Ann: I’m trying to affirm you.
Dave: You know, that feels good. [Laughter]
Bob: I’m guessing that there were times in that college career when a coach or a fellow player/somebody came along and said something to you—they acknowledged a good play, or a good decision, or a good choice—or they said, “You’ve got real skill here,” “You’ve got real ability.” You probably can remember that scene in your head like it was yesterday.
Dave: Oh, yes. Everybody is different; but I think everybody responds positively to affirmation, no matter what. When somebody speaks life—I can remember my high school coach, Bill Jones, who was a college quarterback himself, telling me, when I was the 8th string quarterback on the roster my junior year, “You will be the starter very soon”; I didn’t believe that. He said that; and two weeks later, I was; but I was like, “Me?! Really?! I’m this little…”
Dave: Yes; and the guy, who was the starter—went to Michigan State on a full ride—so I’m like, “There is no way I’m beating him out.” This coach saw something and spoke life, and my college coach did the same thing; and I responded.
Bob: When I was a freshman in college at the University of Tulsa, I tried out for the local campus radio station.
Lisa: Okay; okay.
Bob: KWGS was the local campus radio station. Students got to work at the station if they passed the test; right? I went in; did my tryout. I passed the tryout, and I was assigned the shift on Tuesday nights from nine at night until one in the morning. Every week, I’m on the air. I’m a freshman; I’m 18. This is my dream: “I’m on the radio every night.” I don’t think there was anybody listening in town, but—[Laughter]
Lisa: —that’s not really the point, though; right?
Bob: —that’s not the point. Well, I’d been doing this for like three or four weeks. I walked in the station one day during the daytime; and the station manager was a guy named Gary Chu. Gary said, “What’s your name?” I said, “It’s Bob Lepine.” He said, “You’re doing Tuesday nights; right?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Where did you work before you worked here?” I said, “This is my first station.” He said, “Really?!”
Now, the conversation could have ended there, because I’d already gotten what I needed—“Where did you work before you worked here?” and “Really?!” was enough—but he said, “You sound good.” I think that’s all he said. I can show the spot I was standing in, today;—
Bob: —because years later—there is power in affirming words, which is what we’re going to be talking about today.
We’ve got some friends back with us to talk about this: Matt and Lisa Jacobson. Welcome back, guys.
Lisa: Thank you so much.
Matt: Hey, great to be with you again.
Bob: The last time these guys were here—and by the way, they live in central Oregon. Matt is a pastor. They’ve both been involved as writers and in the publishing world for decades. They’re parents of eight—let me say that again—[Laughter]—eight children, who are, today, between the ages of 12 and—how old is the oldest?
The last time you were here we talked about how to love one another because you’ve written a couple of books called 100 Ways to Love Your Husband; 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Today, we’re going to talk about affirmation; because you’ve also written books on 100 Words of Affirmation Your Wife Needs to Hear; 100 Words of Affirmation Your Husband Needs to Hear. This is something that is vital in a marriage; and yet, I don’t think it’s something that we do naturally. I think we have to say, “This is important, and I need to be intentional about affirming my spouse.”
Matt: I think one of the things that we forget is that the culture of our home is built on the communication that takes place. Some of it is non-verbal, but most of it is verbal communication. What we’re really doing, when we’re speaking in our home, is we are establishing the culture of that home: “What is the tenor of your home?” “What is the culture that you are building in your home through how you’re communicating?”
This just became very clear to us when we focused on the kinds of things that put a lightness in our own steps/that fill our hearts with just a sense of positive energy. It’s, of course, very biblical to be careful how you speak to another person; right? The Word of God is filled with Scriptures that instruct us in how to communicate and what we’re actually communicating by how we speak.
That’s why we wrote these books; because sometimes, we have good thoughts about our spouse; but we kind of run out of things to say. We forget how we might communicate to our spouse a positive word. This is a resource for spouses to read and to think about how they can communicate, build up, just strengthen the heart of their spouse.
Lisa: Yes; I like what you said about speaking life into the other person, because that’s really the purpose of it. Sometimes, when people hear words of affirmation, they start thinking just compliments. I mean, compliments are nice. There are actually some in here that would be considered as compliments, but it is so much more than a compliment. It is really more than “You look pretty today.” It’s about speaking that life into that person: things that you appreciate about them, things that you admire about them, things that you can see in them that they might not be able to see in themselves. I think that’s where the life-giving words come in.
Ann: Most of us have done that in our dating time—like we see it, and we say it—and we’re constantly communicating that in some way, whether it be through text/through letters. Dave and I were in different colleges in different states. We wrote letters to each other every day; we talked on the phone every day, and we were very quick to notice the greatness in each other and to speak it out.
But then, when you are married a while, I think, we can tend to drift; we can tend to get lazy. We can tend to have other demands on our lives; so maybe, those words don’t come as quickly; we don’t see them as quickly. We start noticing some weaknesses or the negative, so our homes become silent of affirmation.
I think you are really right. I think it sets an atmosphere of even thinking, “What is the atmosphere of my home? Is it one of life when my kids walk in?—when my spouse walks in? Is it: ‘Oh, this feels good to be here; because they see me; they believe in me; and they speak words of life to me’?” or “Is it, ‘Uh, I’m home’?”
That can be convicting; because I know, for a while, I really set a bad tone in our home of critiquing Dave; because I thought, “Everybody praises him—he’s preaching; he’s doing all these wonderful things—
Matt: “Time for some balance here!”
Ann: Yes; “His head is getting so big. Why would I—
Lisa: “Let’s bring him down to earth”; that’s right. [Laughter]
Ann: That’s not a good thing for a wife to do. [Laughter]
Dave: I will throw this in; because I was sitting here, thinking, “Okay; how many years out of 40 years of marriage did I feel critiqued?”
Ann: Maybe 15 years.
Dave: I was going to say 10 to 15 years, and then she flipped the switch and started doing cheering; it was mostly words.
Here is what I thought when I picked up 100 Words of Affirmation for Your Husband—I didn’t read this one—I wanted to know what my wife needs; right? I read this thing [100 Words of Affirmation for Your Wife] through. I thought, “Oh, I should see what they say a wife should say to her husband.” I’m not kidding—we haven’t even talked about this—I could read all hundred of these, and I’m guessing I’m going to have the same result. Every one of these she’s said to me—
Lisa: Oh, wow!
Ann: Oh, that’s nice; what are they?
Dave: Like right at the first one, saying, “Yes; marrying you was the best decision I ever made.” I can tell you where we were sitting on a beach in Mexico, on an anniversary trip, and just holding hands. She looks at the sun; and she turns to me and says, “Marrying you was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Now, let me tell you—six months into our marriage, she yelled at me, “Marrying you was the worst decision I ever made in my life,”—[Laughter]—so that was a bit of a change; you know?—some 20 years later—but she’s said that one.
The next one: “You are one handsome man.” I said, “No; I’m not”; she said, “Yes; you are.” “You are a terrific kisser,” “In your arms is my favorite place to be.” I mean, I could keep going, “I’d go anywhere with you,” “You are…”—I mean, she’s said all of these things.
Lisa: Wow; what a great testimony.
Dave: And I feel like the greatest guy in the world.
Ann: Thank you for not saying all of the negative things I said to you over the years.
Bob: The first 15 years?
Ann: Yes; exactly. [Laughter]
Dave: But I mean, it is so important to be speaking life.
Matt: We forget the power that we have with the words that we speak.
We also treat our spouse like a mind reader sometimes: “Well, of course, I feel great,” “Of course, I—
Ann: Good point.
Matt: —“I’ve had very positive feelings.”
We’ll say to somebody else/some third party, “Oh, hey, my wife is awesome. She does this, that, and the other thing. She’s over there.” [The spouse doesn’t] know anything about that; you know? We need to speak this directly to our spouse, and our spouse is not a mind reader. He or she does not know how deeply you appreciate them, how much you love them, and what you love about them. They don’t know that just automatically. You may feel it, but they don’t know it. We’ve got to make sure we don’t treat our spouse like a mind reader.
Lisa: I think a lot of people are not comfortable or have not had this modeled, like I would be one of those people. This did not come naturally for me—this speaking words of life into the other person. I did have those feelings, for sure; but Matt actually was much better at speaking those words. As we talked about, over the last couple of years, and as I was telling him: “For some people, we’ve never experienced that,” or “We’ve never had it modeled before us.” It actually is helpful to go, “Oh, these are the kinds of things you can say to your spouse that will make a big difference.”
I have a good friend, who loves her husband very much; but she just said, “I don’t know what to say to him”; he is just starving for a word from her that says, “I believe in you,” “I admire you.” She goes, “Well, I do feel all those things.” Yes; but he has to hear them from you.
Ann: I think those are things we even need to teach our kids. They may see it, but they may not even always pick up on it. Our son was nine years old, and we were putting him to bed. I kissed him; I hugged him; we had prayed for him. I said, “CJ, I love you so much.” He said, “Mom, I know that. You tell me every single day. You can tell me once, and I know it the rest of my life.” I’m thinking, “His poor wife!” [Laughter] What’s the/I said, “Oh, CJ, like I need to hear it from you. I’m going to tell you, because I feel it; but your wife, when you get married, will need to hear that continuously from you. She won’t just know that you love her because you married her.”
Don’t you think you’re modeling it? Have you taught that to your kids as well?
Lisa: Yes; we talk a lot about speaking words into each other’s lives—the kids to each other as well as to us and to others.
Matt: Yes; the phrase is: “Celebrating the best in the other person”; absolutely. The thing is we all have spouses, and we don’t walk on water; they don’t walk on water. We have to decide: “What are we going to focus on?” and “What are we going to build up in the other person?” Just forget the flat sides; alright? There is a lot you can celebrate.
Even if you are in a marriage or situation, where you can point to some things that you don’t like that are negative, there is a lot that you can celebrate in the other person. It’s amazing how you start this positive, upward cycle of a growing and loving relationship just by choosing to start speaking positively/choosing to start saying words of affirmation, being purposeful about building up the other person. Somebody has got to start; why not it be you?
Bob: Here is a good verse for husbands and wives to memorize that really sums up what we’re talking about here. It’s Ephesians 4:29 that says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion and may give grace to those who hear.” You stop and think, “If our communication in marriage was good for building up, always fit the occasion, and gave grace to the other person, that could transform a lot of marriages—just right there.”
Matt: Yes; and in Proverbs, it says, “Kind words are like the honeycomb,”—
Matt: —just health.
Bob: Sweet; yes. I think there have been times when Mary Ann has been concerned that, if she was too affirming—
Lisa: —you wouldn’t change?
Bob: —I wouldn’t; yes! [Laughter]
Ann: Absolutely; because you’ll think we’re satisfied, and we’ll enable you to stay the same.
Bob: So she’s not alone. Every wife in the room—
Lisa: Sorry; we’re all alike.
Bob: —is thinking this.
Lisa: We know this script.
Bob: So, Lisa, is that true?—that if a wife just lays it on too thick, her husband is just going to go, “Oh, I guess I am the greatest guy”?
Lisa: [Speaking sarcastically] Right; you’ve got to balance that out with critical words; that’s right. That’s the other—that’s the sequel—that’s still yet to come. [Laughter]
No; it has the opposite effect of that. By building him up, it actually makes him want to be a better man; that is the power in that. Not only building up your husband or spouse, but it’s healing; those words can be healing. I think that is another part that we forget.
We all remember something that was said to us in junior high; right? I can remember what the mean girl said to me in seventh grade to this day, and that was a long time ago. You think about how you carry those words with you. Well, what about those positive words?—like you started off with your story. You can remember where you were standing—
Lisa: —when that was said to you. I think that’s absolutely true in a marriage situation too. Those words are healing; those words are impactful for decades to come.
Matt: We just need to remember that we have such tremendous power, and we have to use that power in a godly and positive way in our relationships. Now, in the culture, your wife—she’s not going to get any positive messages; okay? The advertising is not helping.
Matt: Walking by the Victoria, doesn’t have any secrets, store is not helping; okay? Everything about what the culture has to say to your wife is negative: “You’re not enough of this,” “You’re too much of that,” “You don’t measure up here,” “You’re beneath standard there.”
How many moms feel like they’re just doing an amazing job at home, raising those kids? “Man, you’re just winners at this mother game,”—[Laughter]—how many wives out there feeling like that?
Lisa: Everything is against us.
Matt: Okay; there is a voice; it is just sitting right on your shoulder, saying: “Yes; you are failing again,” “Oh, you let down again,” “Oh, look, you didn’t measure up again.” All of these things conspire to cause a wife to feel diminished in the world. Where is she going to get the encouragement/the support to see herself in a proper light as God sees her?—“You are a daughter of the King,”—“You are a princess of the realm,”—“You are somebody that God looks at and totally approves of because of the blood of Jesus Christ,”—“You’re somebody He has completely equipped to be totally successful in the things that He has given you to do. He’s given you the grace and the ability to do the things He’s called you to do.”
Who is going to regularly speak these words into their wife? It’s our job, as husbands, to do this. It’s so uplifting for Lisa to know that I am behind her/I believe in her. There are so many things that I can point out that she is doing a great job at—and to point those out, lift those up, and make real because of the wonderful person that she is and the successes that she has had.
Dave: You think that—almost, you want to step back and say, “Okay; if you haven’t been speaking life/words of affirmation to your spouse, how is that going?”—you know, are they changing into becoming the man you’re trying to help them become; or become the woman—well, part of the answer is, “No; it’s not really working.”
Well, guess what? Maybe, there is a better way to do it. I tell you what—when Ann started speaking life—and it was like I noticed it—like, “Wait; wait; wait.
Matt: “This is different.”
Dave: “She’s saying I’m a good man. That’s not what I’ve been hearing.”
At first, I sort of pushed back like, “No; I’m not.” I remember her specifically saying, “You’re a great spiritual leader of our sons.”
Dave: I go, “No; I’m not!” I literally said, “No; I’m not.” I was thinking, “You’ve told me, for years, I’m not”; because she had this vision of I’d be sitting on the fireplace, and I’d have this big Bible that’s 180 pounds, and I’d open it up and say, “Thus sayest the Word.” Anyway, we had these conversations—like she thought we’d have these family altars on Sunday nights; whatever I taught at the church on Sunday morning, I would now teach.
I didn’t do it that way; I did way of life. When she started saying I was good, I initially thought, “I’m not.” She kept saying it—
Dave: —in different areas. I know I can look back, and it was like she was saying, “I’m this guy way up here”; and I’m feeling like, “Nah, I’m sort of here”; but here is what it did for me. It wasn’t like, “Well, I’ll never get to there.” It was like, “I can be that guy!” It motivated me; like words of affirmation motivate people.
Dave: I was like, “Okay; I’m going to become the guy she says I am—that I’m not yet—but I will be.”
Dave: I look back; and it’s like I changed—not with words of critique—with words of belief and affirmation.
Here is the thing that we learned over the years is—and I believe this for me. I don’t know; I’m not saying I’m doing it great—but I want my spouse/I want my wife to know how much God loves her by the way I speak to her. She should know how much God loves her by my words.
Matt: That’s right.
Dave: So what are my words saying? She should be like, “Man, I am so loved by God; because my husband keeps telling me I’m an amazing woman.”
Ann: And the truth is most of us come into marriage, as you said, Lisa, with baggage we’re already carrying and wounds that we’ve been feeling for a while. I have felt that. It’s almost like, when Dave speaks words of affirmation to me, it’s healing some of those places of old wounds.
We were doing a conference one time, and a husband came up to me. He said, “I’m wondering if you could pray for my wife; she’s dying. We have several kids, and I don’t know what to do.” I was thinking, “She had an illness.” I said, “I would be so happy to pray for her. What’s going on?” He said, “She’s anorexic, and she’s close to the end of her life. She can barely walk, because she hasn’t eaten in so long.”
I found her, and she really was skeletal. I saw her and I said, “I would love to pray for you.” I put my arms around her, and she knocked my hands off. She said, “Don’t touch me!” I said, “Why?!” She said, “I’m so disgusting. Don’t touch me. I don’t want you to even look at me.”
Ann: Her husband loved her so much, but she had so many wounds/so many things going on probably. I hugged her; and I said, “I don’t care. I see you; I think you’re beautiful,” and I prayed over her. As I was praying for her, as she is wrapped in my arms, she is sobbing—not that that one prayer would heal all those wounds—but I think we need to remember our words carry healing power as well.
Lisa: Just a few years ago, Matt walked by me. I said, “You are so handsome!” Then—again, this is not actually/I’m not actually that comfortable throwing things out like this; he’s way better than I am—
Matt: That’s about the time I said, “Well, yes!” [Laughter] No; no.
Lisa: No, it’s not.
He had been just walking by me, and he kind of stopped. He turned back around; and he said, “What did you say?” “Just stating the obvious; you are handsome.” He goes, “Really? I don’t think of myself that way.” I said, “You’ve got to be/you’ve got to be kidding.” This was just a couple of years ago—very recent—and we’ve been married for 27 years.
Then he started telling me about his childhood. He said, “When I was about, maybe, 11 or 12”—he said—“I just thought I was so ugly. I had buck teeth and freckles.” He literally went through the family photo album, and he tore out all the pictures of himself out of the family photos. You can see his whole family lined up; there is just like this jagged hole, where he had torn himself out of the pictures. I had never known that about him. I couldn’t believe it; I just started weeping—just to think that this young boy just thought he was so ugly that he didn’t even want any reminder of his physical appearance. As you can see, I’ve married a very handsome man.
It was just a beautiful moment in our marriage; but it was also healing and a reminder: “No, this is what is true. There is some lie back in your head/back in childhood that—I don’t know; somebody said to you or, maybe, you just got it for yourself—but let’s correct that lie, and let’s tell the truth that you are beautiful in my eyes.”
Bob: You can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com and get both of these books together: 100 Words of Affirmation Your Husband Needs to Hear/Your Wife Needs to Hear. Both books come together. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order your set. The Jacobsons also wrote 100 Ways to Love Your Husband/Your Wife. Those books are available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well. Again, go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to find out how you can get copies of these books and how you can start implementing what’s in the book—how you can start carrying some of these things out/doing some of this—and build up one another in marriage.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order the books; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY: 100 Words of Affirmation Your Husband—or—Your Wife Needs to Hear—order them online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order.
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And I hope you can join us, again, tomorrow. Matt and Lisa Jacobson will be here as well. We’re going to continue talking about practical ways we can affirm one another in marriage.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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