Why I like cats and how I’ve realized affirmation is really important to me.

Growing up, I was a cat lady. Good thing I got it out in my younger years. I didn’t spend much time with others (though I loved having the occasional sleep over) and by others I mean my brothers. They were mean and didn’t play very well (it wasn’t all bad). I don’t remember my mom and dad being around all that often either (I’m pretty sure they both worked places and farmed so they were busy). All this led to me playing by myself A LOT. Or actually, I was in quite good company since I usually had somewhere between 30 and 50 feline friends that followed me everywhere.
Raised many an orphan kitten, and also witnessed many a best friend die. We even had a cat graveyard next to the house. Life on the farm. It’s sad, but you learn to grieve quickly I guess.

One thing I realized is that, having a relationship with a cat is relatively easy when it comes to communication.
When you pet them (usually a pleasurable experience for yourself since they’re so soft and cute!) they are equally gratified and you can tell by the roaring motorboat inside their throat. You feel good about petting them, because they like to be petted and there’s a good experience from being able to tell plus the equal physical gratification because like I said, they’re so cute and soft.

When it comes to people though… they just don’t purr the same way. Sometimes people like to pretend their happy when they’re mad or they’re sarcastic when they mean well.

It’s confusing!

If a cat’s mad, they like scratch you and stuff. If you want to pet them and they don’t want you to, it’s really clear. “Thanks cat, got the memo! And a new scar.”

Not that I’m recommending people start scratching each other. Besides Proverbs 12:16 says a fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

I however, maybe from just how I developed my communication skills (from cats) really appreciate clear communication when it comes to serving others. Do you appreciate what I’m doing? Am I doing it right? Should I do something different? Was this at all helpful? Should I come back again? Should I never come back again?

Affirmation is defined as a noun meaning (secondly) having emotional support or encouragement. It also says under that “the lack of one or both parents’ affirmation leaves some children emotionally crippled”. That’s interesting for me too. Sometimes I think we develop our “relational needs” from noticing we were missing something. I guess if it’s always being met, you probably don’t notice it’s missing too much.

Our church and our church’s movement has been talking about 10 relational needs:
Acceptance- feeling like you belong
Affection- need to be shown love, words or touch
Appreciation- need to hear gratitude
Approval- “I’m ok with you, I like you, I’m good with you”
Attention- maybe obvious, someone to give us the time of day
Comfort- feeling close, someone cares, “someone shares in the hurt with me”
Encouragement- someone’s there when we are discouraged
Respect- honored and valued
Security- having a commitment
Support- someone to be along side of you to help

Here’s a good message by one of my pastors on the topic!

I think affirmation probably covers quite a few of them. For me I think it encompasses: respect, acceptance, approval, encouragement, support, appreciation… I suppose maybe the others.

For me this comes into play the most when I’m serving people. I was doing someone’s dishes the other day and internally I have an incredible insecurity because I’m just not sure if what I’m doing is actually helpful. Or I was giving someone a back massage and I just wish they would tell me whether or not I’m wasting both of our times or if it’s actually beneficial. It’s very interesting.

Through reflecting on those experiences and petting a cat today I’ve concluded cats are really good at giving affirmation. Luckily, I’ve developed healthy relationships with more people and less cats. However, meeting one another’s relational needs is a lot harder to do… probably because we’re made in the image of God and all that… but here’s to fighting the good fight- and loving one another and building one another up in love!

Carry on in faith and love!

-Teresa

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