The Power of Words of Affirmation

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Tragically, Hugo’s father dies in a fire at the museum. Without any compassion, Hugo’s drunken uncle arrives at Hugo’s home to tell the boy that his father is dead. He then drags Hugo to the train station, where the uncle lives and works maintaining the clocks. Before leaving his home, the only thing Hugo grabs is the automaton, which he intends to repair someday. Meanwhile, Hugo learns his uncle’s trade of keeping the station’s clocks running.

Even after his uncle disappears, Hugo continues to live at the station and maintain the clocks. There he befriends a young girl who was adopted by her godparents. Together they try to solve the mystery of the automaton, which Hugo thinks carries a secret message for him from his father. Hugo believes this message will speak to his very purpose in life.

This brings me to what I consider the key point of the movie: a conversation between the two children about their life’s purpose. Hugo says, “If you lose your purpose, it’s like

You’re broken.” He adds, “I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.

And that means you have to be here for some reason too.” “If you lose your purpose, it’s like you’re broken.” Wow, what an insight! So many people feel broken because they do not know their true and authentic purpose in life. Film reviewer Drew McWeeny observed about Hugo, “Early on, it’s obvious that the film is less about the mechanical man and more about the way broken people sometimes need other people to fix them, how we can all play some part in the lives of others, sometimes without meaning to. ”I am quite passionate about several concepts underscored by this movie:

  1. We are created with purpose.
  2. When we have lost our purpose, it is as if we are broken, and we do not function the way our Creator designed us to function.
  3. Sometimes we need other people to help fix us—to help us find our true purpose—an illustration of our interdependency.

We often play a part in the lives of others, some- times without even being aware of it. The more we can live with a clear sense of purpose, the more impact and influence we will have on others.

You are not an accident. Before He even created the world, God began to dream of you. The apostle Paul writes, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 14:5).

He envisioned a unique design for you and decided to invite you and your purpose into His eternal purposes. That purpose will not end with your physical death. After you’ve finished your life on planet Earth, you will stand before our Lord and Maker. If you’ve lived out your purpose, you can expect to hear these words: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Sociologists report that even the average introverted person, if he or she lives to about eighty years old, will influence over ten thousand people. An insurance company produced a TV commercial that illustrates the power of one act of kindness. The ad shows a person doing something kind while another person observes her. The next scene shows the observer doing a kind deed, which is then observed by someone else, who then does his own act of kindness. You get the gist; it is an illustration of a kind of pay it forward concept.

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Notice that it wasn’t just one person, the observer, who was influenced. The first person’s act of kindness acted as a catalyst to all the other people’s acts of kindness. In a way, then, that first person was actually “responsible” for the actions that followed. The more I ponder this, the more I conclude that the estimate that even one introvert influences ten thousand people is probably much too conservative. If you doubt that you and I really have that much influence, consider what happened to me not long ago when I walked into our local gas station to pick up a fountain drink.

As I proceeded to the counter, deep in thought about the next chapter of this book, the attendant behind the counter exclaimed, “Ah! What’s the matter?” His pained response shocked me out of my preoccupation. I looked at him and said, “Huh?” He said, “Joe, you always come in here with a smile on your face, and you always greet us. Today you walked in without so much as a ‘Hi,’ and you looked almost angry.”

Now, I was not angry at all; when I am deep in thought, though, I must look angry. What so caught my attention was how strongly the attendant reacted to my not greeting him and smiling as usual. It was another example of how we influence and bless people.

A more poignant example comes from a good friend, whom I’ll call Mary. While we discussed how affirming people’s gifts and talents is a powerful way to bless one another, she told me how she’d witnessed this for herself.

One day at work, Mary sat down at a lunch table opposite Betty, a coworker whom everyone tried to avoid. Betty always seemed down, and she was cranky and very unpleasant to be around. Mary couldn’t help wondering, since everyone has gifts and talents, what Betty’s looked like. As Mary thought about it, she recalled many of the skills and talents Betty exhibited in her work, some of which directly benefited Mary.

As she began eating her salad, Mary said, “Betty, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the way you . . .” As Mary proceeded to articulate each of Betty’s positive contributions at work, her coworker sat speechless, tears filling her eyes. Finally, she told Mary that it had been a very long time since anyone had said anything kind to her.

Betty began to tell Mary how she had spent all her life caring for others. As a young girl, she cared for her sickly mother. Now she was caring for her husband, who was too ill to work. Betty continually felt overwhelmed and trapped. Though life had not been kind to Betty, when Mary spoke life and blessing to her, it had a profound influence. One final example of the power we have to bless one another comes from the movie Hugo, which I recently enjoyed watching with my family. The story revolves around a young boy named Hugo who loves to fix things— especially clocks.

Hugo’s mother has died; his father is a watchmaker who works in a museum fixing complicated devices. Hugo loves spending time with his father learning the trade. At the beginning of the movie, Hugo’s father is trying to repair an enormously complicated mechanical boy, an automaton that has been donated to the museum.

 

Taken from Language of Blessing by Joseph Cavanaugh III. Copyright © 2013 by Joseph V. Cavanaugh III. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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