Archive for October 6th, 2008

Validation Is Always Appreciated – Even Belatedly

Monday, October 6th, 2008

As a kid, my every trip to the dentist resulted in the discovery of new cavities, which then required new fillings, which then led to a new guilt trip for me. Mom and Dad were pretty nice about it, but it was clear that they believed I wasn’t brushing and/or flossing properly often enough. In time, I came to believe it too.

Then – when I was in my late 20s – a more sophisticated, “big-city” dentist discovered the real culprit: enamel hypoplasia. My lower teeth, which had normal enamel, were grinding away my uppers – which had none. All the brushing and flossing in the world wouldn’t have made any difference – it was like granite rubbing against chalk (and my chalky uppers lost that battle, every time.)

I can’t tell you what a load off my mind it was to be told – even two decades after the fact – that I’d been a “good brusher” all the time. My childhood dentist simply hadn’t recognized the symptoms. (Of course – in the Gainesville, Texas of the 50s and 60s – enamel hypoplasia was not exactly routine.)

But I wasn’t mad at him, or at anyone. I was just so relieved to learn that I hadn’t been the source of the problem. While it would be a gross exaggeration to say that the number of my dental fillings constituted a major crisis for me, it was still very nice to be validated as a brusher, years later.

My wife Gina had a similar experience today. Without going into a lot of detail (it’s her story – if she wants you to hear it, she’ll tell you), let me just say that she also received a belated vindication regarding problems she had encountered with a co-worker at a former job. And – even though she has long since moved on emotionally from that trying time – I could tell that Gina found the validation to be sweet.

One of my favorite commercials of recent years has the now-middle-aged John McEnroe ringing the doorbell of a retired umpire, who had clashed with the “Bad Boy” of Professional Tennis back in the 70s. Somewhat lamely, Johnny Mac tells the wary ex-ump that “there’s a chance you didn’t blow that call” 30 years before. McEnroe then hugs his startled former-nemesis. It’s a funny spot, but it also catches an essential truth: telling someone “You were right, and I was wrong” confers a blessing on both the receiver and the giver.

What in life ever makes us feel better, than when we validate someone as a good person? It’s good for their soul, and for ours.