We stood washing our hands side by side.
“I like your outfit,” she smiled shyly at me. She couldn’t be more than 12 years old. We smiled at each other and I said thanks. She said was here at the youth conference, I was in the middle of unpacking boxes of T-shirts.
When we parted ways, I couldn’t help but feel it was a bold move. Bold and so sweet. It spoke to me of a girl still so secure in her own identity, still young enough to be shielded from a world of insecurity, that she was able to give a compliment to a total stranger.
Because, with a few exceptions, we women are rarely eager to build one another up.
It’s the dark side of being a woman. It’s true, we aren’t dressing up for the men at that party, we’re dressing up for the women. Because women can be mean. The more insecure we are, the meaner we get, the closer we clutch affirmation to our chests.
That morning in a random bathroom in the middle of Kansas City, MO a girl’s personal security transformed me from an un-showered and disheveled, traveling gypsy who packs band merch for a living, into a woman who felt a little less invisible.
Because that’s what we all hunger for, isn’t it? The desire to be noticed, desired and loved.
And it’s embarrassing to share this story with you. Because the heroine of this story isn’t the married woman who was working at a Christian student conference. It’s a little girl who is secure enough to look beyond herself and bless another woman with a simple word of affirmation.
I walked back from the bathroom to a pile of boxes full of t-shirts and realized something: someone secure in their identity, isn’t afraid to give away affirmation. It doesn’t cost them anything to praise those around them because they isn’t hoarding up praise for themselves.
I don’t know why this comes as such a shock and surprise for me. And we’ve all heard it’s better to give than receive. But as silly as it sounds, I’m scared to be an affirmation-giver.
As if by praising another woman’s accomplishments I somehow diminish mine. And that’s true, if my identity comes from the praises of (wo)men. I hoard praise up for myself when I’m not living out of a place of security in Christ.
In Christ, I’m whole. In Christ, I can come before God unashamed. In Christ, there is nothing that can ever separate me from love. In Christ, I’m free to give because I’ve already been given everything.
"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." - Thessalonians 5:11