Saturday, December 19, 2009

Listening, Validation, and Edification

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Validation is a very difficult subject to understand.  Often time people believe that validation means giving people a complement that makes them feel good.  That is not validation.  Some people believe simply saying I understand is validation.  That can be, but often it is not.  Validation is what happens with the person you are most likely to go to when you have a problem you want to talk about.  That person validates you because you believe they are listening to you.  Validation then is the communication back to the person that has just said something that indicates you were listening. 

In marriage there are many things that we can do that are invalidating.  Day to day we can use invalidating words or phrases that make the other person feel they are not heard or that they are being told what they think or feel is wrong.  We all do it often without thinking about it.  However, when invalidating words are the norm in communication it will shut down any positive communication that might have occurred.  For example a teenager might come to her parents and tell about some slight that has happened to her at school.  And the parents might say, "I am sure that she did not mean it that way."  or "Don't be so thin skinned."  Those phrase communicate to this teenager that her feelings are not valid. 
There is a better way to respond. In "The Things We Say" document is a list of invalidating phrases courtesy of  Steve Hein (  I found this list to be a fairly comprehensive list of invalidating statements that are commonly made by people (I have not researched Steve Hein so I do not endorse his site it is just a good list).  Then I took this list of invalidating statements and added my own validating statements in the left hand column.  My suggestion is that you look them over and see if any of them sound like you and work on replacing your invalidating statements with more validating ones.
The act of listening in itself is validating, but only when the other person believes that they have your undivided attention.  Distractions can lead to the other person feeling invalidated.  So turn off the radio or TV,  put down the magazine or book, get off the computer (my personal weakness), look the person in the eye and focus on listening.  That will communicate non-verbally validation of the person's thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. 
Just as understanding does not mean that you are agreeing with a person, validation does not suggest that you are agreeing with them either.  Validation merely conveys to that person that you have heard and understood them.
Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please Himself. On the contrary, as it is written, The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me. For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice. Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God.
Romans 15:1-7 (HCSB)
In the Bible validation is very similar to edification.  Romans 15:1-7 describes the act of edification.  The act of edification is building up another person that they can be encouraged and press on to right living.  Edification is an act of love acting in the best interests of the other person above self-interest.  Edification creates hope, endurance, and encouragement.  For the Christian this is rooted in the scriptures which is God's main method of communicating with us.  One thing that happens with both validation and edification is a sense of acceptance.  Just as Christ accepted us while we were sick with sin, how much more should we accept and encourage others to better living.   
God uses validation:
God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What's wrong, Hagar? Don't be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy from the place where he is. "
Genesis 21:17 (HCSB)
Then the Lord said, "I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings."
Exodus 3:7 (HCSB)
The Lord said to him: I have heard your prayer and petition you have made before Me. I have consecrated this temple you have built, to put My name there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times.
1 Kings 9:3 (HCSB)
Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. You will listen carefully,
Psalms 10:17 (HCSB)
I call on You, God, because You will answer me; listen closely to me; hear what I say.
Psalms 17:6 (HCSB)
Jesus used validation:
Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, "I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!"
Matthew 8:10 (HCSB)
..she said to herself, "If I can just touch His robe, I'll be made well!" But Jesus turned and saw her. "Have courage, daughter," He said. "your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that moment.
Matthew 9:21-22 (HCSB)
Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
Luke 22:31-32 (HCSB)
When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said to Him, "You know that I love You." "Feed My lambs," He told him.
John 21:15 (HCSB)
I want to close with this verse:
My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man's anger does not accomplish God's righteousness.
James 1:19-20 (HCSB)
May we Lord in our relationships especially in marriage always quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.  In Jesus Name AMEN

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