Jimmy Evans - Affirmation
So, I'm on my way home from work, and my lovely bride, Stephanie, calls me and says, "Listen, we're running out of milk, would you swing by the store and pick it up"? I said, "Yes, of course". It's easy for me to do, it's convenient on the way home. So, I pull into this store, I go in, find the refrigerated section. By the way, have you always noticed, the milk's always in the back, and they make you go all the way to the back of the store, it's never right there. Anyway, so I go all the way back, get to the refrigerator, I open the door, and one of my co-workers is right there. Her name is, Jenee. So, I see her and I'm like, "Oh, Jenee, how are you doing"? We chit-chat for a couple of seconds, I grab my milk, I head to the counter, pay for the milk and head home.
So, I get to the house and Stephanie's waiting for me, she's there, she's doing some meal preparation and working with the girls, our kids. And, she says to me, what she normally does, which is, "How are you, honey? How was your day? What can you tell me"? She's basically inviting communication. Wanting to hear from me, what's going on. And, as I'm putting the milk away, I'm just kind of, telling her about my day. You know, "This is what happened, and then this is what happened, and I had this meeting, and then I was on my way home, and then you called me to get the milk, so I went there and I saw Jenee at the counter, and I got the milk, and then I went home". And, so she's like, "Okay, whoa, whoa, whoa. Who did you see"?
So, now she's zeroed in on a particular piece of my communication and she's hunting for details. And, she starts asking me all these questions. "Who was by the refrigerator"? "It was Jenee". "What were you guys talking about? Where were you standing? How long were you standing there? What was the topic of conversation? Was she leaving? Did she have a big basket"? She's got all these questions for me, and in my mind, I've got this dialog going, and I'm thinking to myself, "Why is this the Spanish Inquisition, right now? Why do I have all these questions, and what is this? She probably suspects something is going on here. Wait, does she think I'm fooling around with her, like, what is that? Why is she asking me all these questions? I don't understand".
I start to get defensive. I start this crazy set of ideas. Starts to roll through my head of what is motivating this persistent line of questioning? And, I start raising my tone, raising the quality of what I'm saying. I'm pushing back on her, I'm becoming defensive. She starts saying to herself, "Well, wait a second. Why is he not telling me what's happening here? Is he withholding from me? There's details here, I need. Why won't you tell me what's going on? Are you covering something? Oh my gosh". And, pretty soon this thing just explodes, right. It just gets all the way out of control, and it becomes a big deal, that we have to take time to sit down, and work out and everything. And, it's a mess.
This is a very real, very possible scenario in an average marriage. And, it starts with, the littlest, most normal thing. And, what's behind it all, is actually a completely normal, and good, and healthy strength that's motivating all of this, and the only problem is, we don't know this is what's happening, so we misdiagnose the situation. See, Stephanie has connectedness, and what connectedness does is, it looks to weave together all of these crazy, random facts from the day, and form a story out of them, because people with connectedness know, that nothing happens by coincidence, everything happens for a reason, and there's a story behind it all. Then, when you add the fact that this is a woman of faith, who knows that God is involved in our lives, then it is not a coincidence that I happened to meet Jenee.
So, what she's looking for, is to try to understand where the God-moment was in that interaction. And, so, she's hunting. She's hunting for details. She wants to fill in the rest of the story. She wants to see the big picture. She wants to see God, in that moment. And, I don't understand it. I'm misdiagnosing it completely. I think she's suspicious of me and Jenee. How ridiculous is that? How far is that from the truth? It's nothing like what's really going on, but it's so easy for that to become the reality.
So, do you see what I'm saying? Connectedness is at the root of her questions. Her questions are sourced in a heart that is open and loving. "Honey, tell me about your day. Oh, you saw Jenee, this is fantastic. There's a God-moment here. This feels like it's not random. I wanna know what it is". And, on the other end of it, I'm just getting all defensive and all this. It's crazy. This is what happens when we don't understand our strengths. This is what goes on when we don't know how to call it out, see it for what it is, and call it good. It changes the quality of your interactions.
So, later, we're going through this conversation, we finally work it out, it takes us forever, it's late in the evening, and in parting, she offers this statement to me, "You know, I just feel invisible in this house". And, I realize, that that is a more meaningful statement, than I've ever really understood her say before. What she's saying is, "I don't feel seen. The kind's of things you do, and the kinds of things you say, Allan, they don't let me feel like you really see me. You acknowledge my presence, you respond to what I do, but you don't really see me". So, this leads me to the real reason I wanna talk with you today, and it's the difference between praise and affirmation.
See, praise has everything to do with what you just did. It's specifically targeted at an action. So, if an amazing vocalist gets up on a platform, and delivers this amazing song, what do we do when it's over? We clap for them. What is that? It's praise, because it's aimed directly at the activity that just happened. It's a recognition. It says, "Hey, good job. Thank you". As believers, if it happens to be in a church experience, then we're gonna be clapping and part of what we're doing is saying, "Hey, we wanna honor you for the work you've done to develop this capacity. It's a talent, you've made it stronger, we're great for that". We're also saying to God, "We honor you for the gift you've given this individual, and we enjoyed the whole delivery, it was amazing".
It's all involved in this praise thing, and if you go to the vocalist and ask them how they feel, in that moment, the minute they come off the platform, they're on a high, it feels like a rush, this feels good, I feel honored or praised, and it feels great. But, you come back to them in 10 minutes, they're right off of that high, everything's normal again, and we're back to just everyday life. Praise specifically targets what you do, and tells you, you know, gives you the attaboy, tells you thank you for it. Again, a couple buddies that come over and help me move the couch. When they're done, I tell them, "Thank you for helping me move the couch". That's praise.
Recognition for something that's done. Affirmation though, is completely different. Affirmation speaks exclusively to who you are. See? And, the problem with this is, if I don't actually know who you really are, I mean really, then when I try to throw affirmation your way, if it doesn't hit with you, if it doesn't sit right with you, it actually has the opposite affect. It feels manipulative. I feel like I'm politicking you. Like I'm shaking hands, you know, and kissing babies. Like I have some other kind of motive. So, you become suspicious. You begin to think, "Why is this person trying to butter me up? What do they want"? And, so, you become defensive and you push the activity of that person away.
That's why affirmation is missing, because half of the time we don't know the person, and then when we try to affirm in that circumstance, it's misdiagnosed and we reject it. See, affirmation speaks exclusively to who the person is, and if you don't really know who they are, it misses. See, praise I can lob over the fence. If it lands on your side of the house, it's a win, it's good. Thanks for helping me with that thing, okay good, I got it. 10 minutes later there's no difference. If I wanna affirm you, I have to speak to who you are, which means I have to know something about who you are. And, the fastest way to know that kind of accuracy, is to understand somebody's strengths.
If you know your spouse's strengths, like I know Stephanie has connectedness, then in that situation, and she starts peppering me with all those questions, and my natural reaction is to go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute, why are you chasing me"? I could just go, "Wait a second, wait a second. This is her connectedness in operation". And, I can affirm her by saying, "Sweetheart, I see you're looking for this connection in the story. What detail do you need from me, to piece it all together"? And, she could ask me a couple more questions, I could give her the answers, and she would find the weave that makes sense for her, and we'd all be good. But, instead I'm rejecting her, she doesn't feel seen, the whole thing falls apart, we end up arguing, it's a mess.
Can you see, how knowing each other's strengths and being able to use them to powerfully affirm each other, using words like, "I see your connectedness, and I know you know there's a story in here somewhere. How can I help that?' When I say that to her, she goes, "This man, this man gets me right now. He totally understands my motivation, he totally sees me on the inside, and I'm so in love with him I'm gonna double cook these potatoes". Or, whatever the action is, right? It's just a way to feel seen. It's a way to feel recognized. And, I'm telling you, I'm telling you, I'm telling you, affirmation is basically missing in marriages across America.
We have got to resurrect this powerful, powerful need, and one of the best ways to do it is to understand each other's strengths and practice in your mind and in your behavior, the action of finding a strength in your spouse, call it out, and recognize them and how they think. Not just what they do, how they think and what's motivating them. When you do that, you're gonna speak affirmation to your spouse, and I promise you, you'll see signs of their blossoming, in a way that you have never recognized before. And, let me give you this one as a kicker, it's a powerful aphrodisiac. I'm just giving you that, for free.
Allan Kelsey: If you're just tuning in, welcome to, "Strengths-Based Marriage". We have a guest couple with us today. Let's have a look at how their strengths influence their marriage.
Today's couple is Clayton and Ashlee Hurst, from Houston, Texas. Clayton's top five strengths are, harmony, positivity, arranger, individualization, and self assurance. Ashlee's top five strengths are, ideation, strategic, intellection, significance and connectedness.
Allan Kelsey: Clayton and Ashlee, it's so great to have you here with us today. Thank you so much for joining. Now, I know who you are, because we have a little history, but for the benefit of all of our listeners, would you say a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Clayton Hurst: Sure, well we have been married for 21 years, we are the marriage and parenting pastors at Lakewood Church, in Houston. We've been doing that role for about four years now, we love talking about strengths, we love helping marriages. The book has been tremendous in everything that we do at the church, in helping couples across the board.
Ashlee Hurst: Yeah, so we, when we got married, you know, we had the makings of such a great marriage. Both of our parent's had been married for, at the time, over 40 years, we were raised in a Christian home, so we had this makings of such a great marriage. But, five years into our marriage, we needed help, because we had fun together, you know, I love being with him, I felt secure with him, but it was like five years into our marriage, we didn't know what to do, because sometimes I didn't feel secure. Sometimes I didn't feel loved. So, we were at a place where we needed help. And, so, if it wasn't for the help of some friends and some books that we read, I don't know what we would have done. There's a scripture in the Bible, Proverbs 3, or Proverbs 21:3, that says, "Houses built by wisdom, and each room is filled by knowledge. And, those are filled with jewels". And, so, we didn't have the knowledge before we got married. We had all the makings of this awesome marriage, but we didn't have the knowledge that you need to have a great marriage, and so, that's what we were lacking. That's what we are so passionate about helping other couples with now, is the knowledge to have a great marriage.
Allan Kelsey: You guys have really engaged with strengths, very powerfully, and it seemed to click with you right away, and you referencing some, you know, some speedbumps, a little bit early on in the road, with your marriage. Was there a moment where you saw a connection between the knowledge of your strengths and then how that might resolve something for you, in your marriage?
Clayton Hurst: Yeah, I think for us, we had taken the, Strength Finders Test, years ago. Really, just for ourselves, but we'd never put the two and two together, about this could help us in our marriage. I think for us, the light bulb moment was probably, right around our oldest daughter's, one of her birthday's, we were gonna have a pool party outside. Well, we had taken the test and we began to talk about our strengths. Harmony's my number one and strategic is at the number two for Ashlee. Very high for Ashlee. Well, she was talking about, "Well, what are we gonna do if it rains"? And, I kept thinking, "We don't have to worry about that, we just need to believe. We've prayed".
Ashlee Hurst: It was your positivity.
Clayton Hurst: It was my positivity, but I was also incorporating some harmony, trying to just bring peace to the house. Because, I could tell, it was weighing on her, but I think through that situation, we really opened up.
Ashlee Hurst: Yeah, I kept saying, "We need a plan B, we need a plan B", and he was like, "Just believe, just believe. It's gonna be okay".
Clayton Hurst: And, we came out of that and we really realized that, "Oh my gosh, we're functioning in our strengths". She was completely engaged in her strengths, learning how to do the strategic side of it, and I had never validated that before. And, so, when I first heard that and saw that, "Oh my gosh, she's not being negative". You know, because that's how it was kinda coming across to me, she wasn't being negative, she was being strategic. She was actually helping the situation, not trying to dampen it. I think she saw it from my perspective, you know, I was always, not just trying to stay positive, or keep peace and keep harmony in the house, but I was trying to maybe, help her see from a different perspective. So, I think through that, we really learned how to communicate on a deeper level than ever before.
Ashlee Hurst: Yeah, when I read that definition of strategic, and saw that, this type of person needs a plan B, C, and D, it was huge for me, because for years, I had prayed, "God, help me to be positive, like Clayton. Why can't I be positive like, Clayton? What is wrong with me"? And, so, when I saw that definition it was, "Oh my goodness, I am not negative, I'm strategic. It's okay that I have a plan B, C, and D". It was huge for me. We even shared this story at a thing that we taught at, and a lady came down front, in tears and she said, "I'm you. I'm you. I'm that strategic person. Thank you so much, for sharing that. My husband is positivity, I'm that person". And I was like, yeah, it's huge. It was a huge light bulb moment for us.
Allan Kelsey: Ah, that's so great. You know, we're in this episode that deals specifically with affirmation. In order for us to be able to affirm each other, you genuinely have to actually know some truthful things about one another, in order to do that. I have this exercise, I wonder if you guys would work with me on, so that you could see each other more clearly, through a particular strength, and then we'll talk about some affirmation on the other side of that. Are you all right with that?
Clayton Hurst: Sure.
Ashlee Hurst: Sure.
Allan Kelsey: All right, so, Clayton, I was gonna start with you, but we need to do ladies first, so Ashlee, I'm gonna come to you first.
Ashlee Hurst: Sure.
Allan Kelsey: I want you to think of one of your strengths, and then tell me which one you would like to pick, and then I'm just gonna lead you to answer some phrases as I open them.
Ashlee Hurst: Okay, I think I'll stick with strategic.
Allan Kelsey: Okay, good.
Ashlee Hurst: Because I use that one a lot.
Allan Kelsey: So, the essence of strategic is that you love to begin with the end in mind. You just see all the varieties of options, and you naturally pick the fastest and most efficient way to get there.
Ashlee Hurst: Yeah.
Allan Kelsey: So, in your lane of strategic, okay, stay in that thought process, and use that knowledge to just, kind of, answer the following phrases from your own life. I will...
Ashlee Hurst: I will have a plan, and if that plan doesn't work, I will have another plan.
Allan Kelsey: Yes, I believe that. Okay, I need...
Ashlee Hurst: I need to have the freedom to have a plan, because I don't like chaos.
Allan Kelsey: Ah, so I have strategic too, and I would say I need variety. There's something about my strategic that calls for that, I have no idea why. I bring...
Ashlee Hurst: I bring... I feel like I bring things to a whole. Like, I can connect the dots, because I have connectedness too. I feel like strategic, connectedness, and ideation all come together, where I can bring something really valuable to the table, to get a plan in action, and make sure it gets done, and to make sure there's not any pitfalls.
Allan Kelsey: Okay, I totally see that. All right, so, there's no right or wrong answers here. There's just learning, right? So, the purpose of the phrases, is just to solicit more learning. Tell me about you, and how you think, and what's going on in that, you know, in that particular strength. Clayton, you ready? You got one in mind?
Clayton Hurst: I think I'm kinda bouncing around different one.
Allan Kelsey: Come on, pick one.
Clayton Hurst: Let's go with arranger.
Allan Kelsey: All right, ooh, good one. I have no idea about this one, whatsoever. So, you're out on thin air, pal. All right, starting with number one. I will...
Clayton Hurst: I will arrange everything we face in a way that we can walk through it together, in a way that we can do it together, in a way that we can enjoy whatever it is we're doing.
Allan Kelsey: So, you're arranger is built around unity. It seems like you like to pull towards unity.
Clayton Hurst: Yeah, I love doing that. I actually, after we got to talking, the strategic and my arranger work really well together.
Allan Kelsey: All right, staying in your arranger lane. I need...
Clayton Hurst: I need to arrange things, all the time.
Allan Kelsey: Come on now!
Clayton Hurst: I'm serious. From packing a bag. I love packing her bag. She'll put everything out, if we're going on a trip, she'll put everything out, and I'll ask her, "Is this everything"? Because I think about everything, and then I will fold it and I will arrange it properly, in the bag to where she'll have plenty of room leftover.
Allan Kelsey: Oh my gosh. Where were you last week when I needed that.
Ashlee Hurst: It's like Mary Poppin's bag, you know how you can just keep putting things in it? That's how it is when he packs my bag. I mean, it's incredible.
Clayton Hurst: And, when she lets me do that, I love it. It's like you referenced in the book, I'm on the juice. So, when I'm arranging and that, I need that continuously.
Allan Kelsey: All right, so the next one is, I bring. From an arranger perspective, what do you bring?
Clayton Hurst: I think I bring order. I bring, where the chaos is, or where, you know, we've got a house with three kids, I can help establish and bring order with that arranger in mind.
Allan Kelsey: I see that. All right, I must...
Clayton Hurst: I must have the opportunity to arrange daily. Anywhere, and really, whether that's at home, whether that's on the job, whether that's helping the kids. Anywhere I can possibly do it, I must arrange things, just to bring that peace.
Allan Kelsey: So, now that the two of you have had a little bit more clarity, I mean you know each other well, and so these nuances, you already know, but for the rest of the viewing audience, they know a little bit more about you. So, now that that's true, how would you affirm each other using one of these ideas. Or, how have you in the past?
Clayton Hurst: I think, you know, Ashlee mentioned ideation. I love giving her that opportunity to flow in those gifts, and there was one time in particular, we were working on a project at the church, and she couldn't be in the meeting. In this meeting, we were thinking about ideas that were coming up. We had been just thinking, for probably close to an hour, and nobody could come up with the idea and I said, "Oh my goodness, I can call Ashlee". I called her and in a two minute conversation, I told her the situation, told her that we needed that, and she said, "Oh, well you could do this, this, this, and this". And I'm like, "Oh my gosh, that's brilliant. Why didn't I call you, you know, an hour ago". And, she felt affirmed in that, because I said, "You know what, we would have been here all day, but you did that. You used your gifts, you used your strengths". And, it took it to a completely different level for us.
Allan Kelsey: Ashlee, what about you?
Ashlee Hurst: For me, I hope it's okay I mention one that's not in his top five. Number six is responsibility, and when we had taken the test before, it was higher, and that was one that used to really frustrate me too, because he would commit to things, sometimes without telling me, but by golly, he had to do it. Like, there was no stopping him, and it caused some friction between us, but once I saw that that was one of his strengths, he understood it too and he would make sure to tell me, now he always asks me before he commits to anything. But, now I know, if I say yes, I cannot go back on my word. So, I'm always so appreciative of that in him, because and people know that of him. They ask him to do things, because they know he's gonna get it done, because he's so responsible.
Allan Kelsey: Yeah.
Ashlee Hurst: I just always try to affirm him, in that, because I think, sometimes when they have that responsibility too, you know, a man's number one need that Jimmy talks about all the time, is honor, and I feel like sometimes I was dishonoring him, sometimes in his responsibility, when I'd be like, "Why are you doing that"? You know, and now I try to really show him honor in his responsibility. When he commits to something, I want to let him know how proud I am of him, that he's following through with that.
Allan Kelsey: Yeah.
Ashlee Hurst: Even though, sometimes it's something silly. He might say, "I'm gonna help this person move". And I'm like, "Well, you know, it's gonna rain or this or that, it's probably not... Oh, it is a big deal. He's gonna help that person move, and I can't do anything to stop him with that". So, now, I try to encourage him in that, instead of bringing him down.
Allan Kelsey: Well, I love your feedback. You guys are so connected to your strengths. Thank you so much for joining us today, on the episode. I loved getting to understand a little bit more about you.
Clayton Hurst: Thanks for having us.
Ashlee Hurst: Thank you so much.
Jimmy Evans: I love to see stories like that. That's why we do what we do, and an example of the impact these powerful resources can have on your marriage.
Allan Kelsey: Yeah, for example, maybe your number one strength is empathy, and your spouse's strength is to be restorative. Being aware of that is so important, because it will help you to understand how each of you think. Because while someone who is empathetic will feel what others are feeling, a restorative spouse will see a problem and try to fix it. They both want there to be resolution and understanding, peace and growth, but their perspectives are completely opposite, and if misunderstood by each other, can be cause for some really heated discussion.
Allan Kelsey: But trust me, no matter what situation you're in, your marriage can thrive in every area, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And we wanna help you experience that today, so request your Strengths Based Marriage resources with your gift, and discover the principles you need, to see yourself, your spouse, and your marriage in a new amazing way.