Dear Older Self,
“What is the next generation coming to?” “In my day we would never have done these things.”
You have heard several elderly people make such comments. You have listened as older people have commented about the younger generation in negative ways, criticizing rather than blessing a younger generation that needed to be affirmed and encouraged.
I know you remember what it is like to hear negative words from people older than you. Their words stung and discouraged you. “I pity you in the next generation, the future looks bleak for you,” one elderly family member said to you when you were in your early thirties. You were shaken by these words. Rather than blessing you with words of hope, his words felt like a curse.
I know you also remember what it was like to be criticized and even looked down upon by your elders for the clothes you wore, or the music you listened to or the political views you held. Rather than seeking to understand your experience in the world or the reasons for your choices and your views, you felt discounted.
But you also know what it was like when one of your elders spoke words of blessing, hope or affirmation to you. Remember how it impacted you when an elderly friend affirmed you by telling you how much comfort you brought to her, how your presence calmed her anxieties? Remember how it blessed you the day she told you that as she thought about all that you had done for her she could see the reality of your love for her?
So, dear older self, I want to encourage you to be intentional about blessing and affirming others, especially those younger than yourself. I want you to be intentional about this because words of affirmation and blessing help people thrive.
To bless and affirm others is to see a person’s value and worth and to treat them accordingly. It is to appreciate the uniqueness of who they are. It is to express gratitude to them and for them. And it is to speak about their future with hope.
The more specific you can be the more impactful your words will be. To tell someone “You are wonderful” is probably too general a statement. Affirming specific qualities or behaviors can be more powerful.
An example of something more specific than saying “You are wonderful” might be saying something like,“Not only are you taking care of your children and working hard but you are also doing so much for me. Thank you.” Or, “ I love your sense of humor and your infectious laugh.” Or “I love hearing about your studies—I am so proud of you for how hard you are working on them.”
To bless someone is not an attempt to manipulate them or to change their mood. To bless is not to flatter. A blessing is not at the surface of life—it is not about fashion, clothing or even success. A blessing speaks deeply into a person’s life. It may involve saying the most obvious of things—the things all of us long in our heart of hearts to hear over and over again: “I love you,” and “I am so proud of you,” and “I am very grateful for you.”
Dear older self, please be intentional about pronouncing blessing— freely, frequently and generously. Offer your appreciation and respect for others—for who they are and for the ways they make a difference in your life and in the world.
This meditation is taken from Notes to Our Older Selves: Suggestions for Aging With Grace by Juanita Ryan and Mary Rae. You can get a copy at Amazon.com