Yes: an expression of agreement
“If the wounds on her heart and the bruises on her soul were translated on her skin, you wouldn’t recognise her at all” (Barrie Davenport, 2014)
The word ‘yes’ can deeply wound and even destroy, but when spoken with authenticity and freedom, can be powerful, redemptive and healing.
I often refer to Danny Silk’s book, “Keep Your Love On! Connection, Communication and Boundaries” when I’m trying to make sense of something in my life or relationships.
He talks about how, if our hearts are governed by fear, then much of what we communicate is designed to hide what is really happening internally. We hold back, pretend something doesn’t hurt or act as if we’re happy when our heart is breaking, in an attempt to avoid the pain of being ‘real’. Sometimes, we were not taught how to interpret our thoughts, emotions and desires and translate them into words, much less communicate them to others. The consequence of not knowing how to communicate our feelings are shame and fear, which leads to hiding behind an acceptable social mask. Not having the courage or the ability to face the truth of what we feel think and need, results in confusing and inaccurate information being communicated. At times even falsehoods.
It is important to remember that only those who value and understand themselves can value and understand others. Only those who communicate honestly with themselves can communicate honestly with others.
One of the most undermining and devastating types of communication is the passive -aggressive style. It can make anyone feel crazy because of the mixed messages, veiled criticisms, insinuations and discounting of another person’s thoughts and feelings, while the passive-aggressive communicator maintains the good-person façade. To be in agreement with the message communicated by those with a passive-aggressive style is to perpetuate our feelings of unworthiness.
But what if we only say yes to relationships where communication is assertive and the core belief of both people is that “You matter and so do I. My thoughts, feelings and needs matter and so do yours” (Danny Silk).
I felt slightly like an observer in a really affirming dating relationship I was involved in, which was a catalyst for the change of many of my skewed perceptions and incorrect assumptions about myself and others. He showed me unconditional generosity, empathy, kindness, respect, encouragement, honour and protection. He shared the truth of his heart with me which allowed me to share mine. While expecting me to be accountable, he allowed me my failures. But me weeping when he unreservedly told me I was beautiful, kind or loving, made us realize that my wounds were deep and my core beliefs about how unworthy I was because of mistakes I had made, needed to be healed. And healing cannot come from the opinions of another person. It must come from within.
Often we have intellectual knowledge that has not yet penetrated our hearts or minds and until it does, our perspective is affected. I recently went on a heart-changing mission trip to Madagascar with a team from my church and one of the words that kept coming into my head was ‘enough’.
It made me think of Tim Keller’s explanations in his book “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness”. He explains that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer on trial. Jesus, as our substitute, has taken the condemnation we deserve and so we are acceptable; we are enough in God’s eyes because of what Jesus did on the cross. Knowing that the underserved verdict of ‘not guilty’ has been given, not because of our performance, but because of God’s grace, encourages us to perform on the basis of that verdict. In Him, our identity is secure. We can do things for the joy of doing them and we help people to help people, not so that we can feel better about ourselves nor fill up any emptiness. We say yes to good out of abundance.
In Madagascar, one of the life-changing experiences was connecting with one of the Malagasy volunteers. We were both under a table trying to manage the challenging behaviour of one of the children when we caught the eye of the other. It felt almost like recognition. Later that night, when we were at church, we were part of the same little group who were praying together. And the next day, we found ourselves standing in a bathroom without a common spoken language, with me showing her how to apply ointment that I had brought with me from South Africa. As she took off her second layer (I also never wear less than two layers on my upper body because of my scars), and I rubbed the ointment into her wounds, I looked at her and thought, “You are beautiful, you are precious, you are loved”. I realized then, that although we both had physical scars and had been emotionally wounded, we were still beautiful, precious and loved. And it felt like it was a message for every person that had ever felt disqualified or unworthy at any time, for any reason, to remember to say yes to being beautiful, precious and loved.