Expressing Admiration for Someone Close

By Keith Miller | April 26, 2010

I am part of a large family.  One member recently died.  While he was alive we never told him what a good man he was.  Why is it we seem to have to wait until good ones are gone before we really can express what we admired and enjoyed about them?


That’s a really good question.  By the time I was 28, everyone in my immediate family (brother and parents) had died.  Also, I have been to many funerals over my 83 years.  So I have thought about this a great deal.  I ran across a comment in a book by the late Albert Camus (The Fall ).  Camus said that the reason we find it easier to give voice to our admiration of someone after that person’s death than while he or she is still alive is simple: “With the dead there is no obligation.” And I think he was right in a very real sense.

Your question brought back a memory of a lunch I shared with a close friend some years ago.  As we were eating I realized that that he is a remarkable man and has great ability and humility about it.  I started to tell him but suddenly felt very awkward and nervous about doing so.  I decided to go ahead and tell him, and as I was doing so I realized why I had hesitated.  Somehow—because we live in the same town and sometimes work together—I was afraid that he would expect me to “follow through” on this affirmation and provide a deep and lasting friendship—and I wasn’t sure if I could.  So I told him about what I had felt and thought as I had spoken about my admiration of him.  He responded by telling me that he, too, had felt uneasy hearing me affirm him that strongly, because he was afraid he’d disappoint me if I really thought he was that fine of a man.

But we decided these fears are part of the risk of loving people, and that for us the results in terms of emotional health and happiness are worth the risks.  The crucial thing, it seems to me, is to be sure that affirmation is genuine.

Dear Lord, sharpen my conscious awareness of what I value in my friends and help me find the courage to tell them.  Help me not to over-affirm, or flatter people for some hidden manipulative purpose, but rather to let others know whenever I recognize something I admire or enjoy or appreciate about a friend.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 O my dear brother Jonathan, I’m crushed by your death. Your friendship was a miracle-wonder, love far exceeding anything I’ve known— or ever hope to know.

(David’s Lament over the death of his best friend, Jonathan).

2 Samuel 1:25-27, The Message

Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.

Proverbs 17:17 The Message


Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul. 

Proverbs 27:8-10 The Message

One comment | Add One

  1. Ann Voskamp - 04/27/2010 at 5:00 am

    Wise, wise words…. thank you for sharing from your 83 years of experience…

    All’s grace,

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The Edge of Adventure (course) gave me the nudge I needed to remember that sometimes we just need to give ourselves completely to God and let Him do the rest.
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