As a Christian, though I believe everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), I also believe that everyone needs to be validated of their worth as a human being, because, sadly, this is lacking in our world today. We see the results of emotional and physical torture and abuse in violence and vengeance playing out in people’s hearts and lives, and at the very least some emotional anguish as a result of others’ invalidation.
What is invalidation?
According to Karyn Hall, who blogs in Psychcentral, invalidation is ” when a person’s thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged.” For me, I define invalidation similarly as, “when a person’s thoughts and feelings are discounted and not taken as serious.” I believe there is rampant invalidation everywhere in our society, including sadly sometimes in religious institutions.
What is validation?
Validation as I define it is when a person’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings are affirmed, respected, and/or taken seriously.
Ways we can validate someone(without compromising our beliefs or morality)
1)We can listen to what the other person is saying. This does NOT mean just hearing what the person has to say, but also empathizing with how they feel or believe. We DON’T have to agree to affirm someone! However, we do have to respect what they believe or feel.
2)We can ask questions to show that we care. This does NOT mean interrogate them (as I have admittedly sometimes made the mistake of doing). But this does mean asking questions if we don’t really understand what the person is feeling or thinking.
3)We can point out the positive things we see in the person we are talking to, and show through that we appreciate them. Also: show gratitude. Thank people who have made a positive impact in your life or the lives of others regularly. This will make it more likely that the person will continue to have a positive impact, because they will feel appreciated and loved, like what they are doing is worth something to you (and to the world).
4.) We can take them seriously, especially if they are sharing something important to them or particularly painful. We can rejoice with them when they are in the rejoicing mood, and mourn with them when they are sad, for instance. We NEVER ever trivialize or diminish what they are saying (unless the person saying it of course actually means it as a joke).
Ways people have invalidated others (including me) and what we can do to stop doing it ourselves
- After sharing something particularly painful or upsetting that was hard to share, being told that a.)”It’s not a big deal. Why are you getting upset over that?” and other such variations of that. or b.) Well, part of it is YOUR fault. OK, I have major issues with this because a.) The situation may have seemed small to you (or any other person who was saying the invalidating thing), but by saying this you are totally disregarding the fact that it was a big deal for me (or for the person sharing the upsetting or painful situation). b.) Do NOT place blame on the person already sharing the upsetting information. Ways to stop this type of invalidation: 1) Rather than dismissing someone’s pain, say something like, “I am sorry you are going through x.,” or “I am sorry you are feeling this way. Is there anything I can do to help you through this.” , 2)Listen, listen, listen! , and 3.) Thank them for sharing because if someone confides in you that way, that means they trust you. Don’t ruin that!
- After confronting someone about what they did wrong, they a.) deny that thing ever happened. b.) Dismissing or downplaying the offense. For instance if I confronted you about hurting my feelings, saying something like, “That wasn’t that bad, was it?” or the famous, “I was only kidding.” c.) Blaming YOU for what they did. For instance, saying after being confronted about hurting my feelings, “You were too sensitive.” OR “You’re just bitter.” Ways to stop this type of invalidation: 1) Confess what you did wrong! Apologize! Repent! (i.e…Stop doing the offensive behavior!). “I am sorry I did x.” would do well, and much better than, “I am sorry IF I did x,” because the word “if” nullifies the apology! 2) If you feel you did nothing wrong, tell them at LEAST, “I am sorry you feel this way. What can I do to make things better between us?” 3.) Offer to make amends to repair the relationship.