Summary of Born Only Once: The Miracle of Affirmation by Conrad Baars

In addition to this book, I used this helpful article:

The Need: Human love

We all have a fundamental, intrinsic need for human love – the unselfish, mature, authentic human love of another – in order to feel good, worthwhile, and lovable.

Once we experience ourselves as good, worthwhile, and lovable, our ability to love others is “unlocked” and we have the capacity to live out the commandment of Jesus to “love one another” (John 13:34, 15:12).

  • “We must first be loved in order to love.”

The Problem: Lack of human love

Unfortunately, many have not received authentic human love growing up. We have been criticized, ignored, neglected, abused, abandoned or emotionally rejected by primary caregivers early in life, resulting in a stunted emotional life.

This stunted emotional life is called “emotional deprivation disorder.” Baars considers it to be “the disorder of our times; the cause of infinitely varied misery and unhappiness” (3).

  • As a result, those with EDD feel insecure, uncertain, inferior, inadequate, depressed, lonely, helpless. They are unable to form intimate friendships, have an excessive desire to please others, are afraid to hurt others’ feelings, overly sensitive to others’ opinions, and are unable to make decisions in personal matters. Those with EDD also try to make themselves feel better by pointing out the shortcomings and faults of others (they are threatened by others’ differences) and often engage in gossip, criticism, premature advice.

The Solution: Affirmation

“Affirmation is a three-step process which occurs when one person is the source of unconditional love and emotional strengthening for another person” (Conrad Baars).

  • “Being affirmed is having one’s goodness revealed to oneself by another” (62).

These three steps are:

#1: Affective Presence

Affirmation is primarily a way of being affectively present to another through awareness, attentiveness, and presence. This affective presence is a way of “being” with another rather than “doing” something for them.

  • “Affirmation is first of all affectivity, a matter of feeling. Only secondarily is it effectivity, a matter of doing” (13).
  • “Authentic affirmation is first of all a state of being. Only secondarily may it lead to doing, to acts, or to words, that may then complete the affirmation of the other” (9).

By affirming that the other is good, worthwhile, and lovable – precisely the way he or she is – period, “separate from and prior to any good and worthwhile thing you may do or can do” (12),  you help to reverse the assumption that another must do something in order to prove they are good.

  • “The feeling that one is expected to do something stifles the opportunity for growing at one’s own pace and in one’s own way. This opportunity or invitation to grow is created by the unconscious realization that is generated by the process of authentic affirmation, “If I am considered lovable in my present imperfect way, how much more lovable will I be when I outgrow my imperfections!” (14).

Through one’s affective presence, another feels loved, accepted, and worthwhile instead of simply trying to believe they are cognitively based on the words or actions of another.

#2: Being moved

Next, another “is moved, feels attracted to, and finds delight in your goodness and worth, but without desiring to possess you, or use you, or change you” (12).

This step reveals that there are no “techniques” in affective therapy. Rather, the therapist creates an affirming ‘milieu’ and is personally moved by love, joy, delight in regards to the client.

The affirming person shows a humble respect for the uniqueness of the other and an unselfish delight in the goodness of the other without wanting to possess him, without expecting or demanding anything for himself.

#3: Revealing

The affective therapist “permits his or her being moved by and attracted to you to be revealed simply and primarily by the psychomotor reactions – visible, sensible, physical changes – which are part of “being moved”” (12).

The Journey from Unaffirmed to Affirmed

#1. Be yourself

Be honest with your feelings and opinions. “If you agree that you want to be loved for yourself and not for what you pretend to be, however, it follows that you must be yourself” (43). “Unaffirmed persons always come to realize that they have gained nothing by trying to be someone else” (43). “So dare to be yourself so thoroughly, so authentically, that you will be free to turn out of yourself toward others, free to discover their goodness without seeing it as a potential threat, free to affirm others – or not” (43).

#2: Stop hiding or repressing your emotions

First, take the time you need to reassure yourself inwardly, over and over, that it is good to feel whatever emotions you feel. Remember, all emotions are necessary and good (they are outside the realm of moral judgment). And as far as your emotional life is concerned, it is all or nothing. Once you’re comfortable with the emotions you used to fear, you are ready to begin experimenting in expressing them. You will learn that each emotion can be expressed in many more ways than you ever thought possible.

#3: Do not hang on to your fears. Be assertive.

Especially the fear of hurting other people’s feelings. You must, like Christ, say and do what you know to be right even if it hurts other’s feelings. “So, instead of trying to protect yourself through your fear, learn to live dangerously – that is, dangerously for you! – by doing and saying what you think, know, or believe is right, by not caring that you may be mistaken at times, by relying on the motor of your emotions under the slowly growing guidance of your reason and common sense, in order to maintain yourself as yourself, as the unique human being you are supposed to be” (46).

#4: Do not bend over backward to please everyone

Unless, of course, you are already a fully mature, freely self-determining person.

#5: Be constantly on the lookout for what is good in other people.

This also helps to counteract the common trait of unaffirmed people who try to make themselves seem important by putting other people down or needlessly criticizing them.

#6: Stop thinking that you are no good,

and are worth nothing because your parents or other significant people in your earlier life did not succeed in making you feel loved.

#7: Stop trying to affirm yourself,

to prove to yourself and the whole world that you are worthwhile and good.

#8: Be gentle with yourself. Wait in patience, unhurriedly,

in openness, while living your own life in your own unique way, daring to be yourself, stifling your fears.

Some Final Quotes

“In order to become open to all existing goodness, and thus to find happiness through affirming that goodness, whether in beings or in things, you first have to be yourself. In order to be yourself, you must first become yourself. In order to become yourself, you must first receive the gift of yourself. In order to receive this gift, there has to be another who gives, who gives without taking, without demanding anything, who gives you what is not his or her own, but yours, your own goodness. The other can do this only when the other is already happy with himself or herself, and thus open to the goodness of all else” (11).

  • Jesus Christ is the perfect representation of an affirmed and affirming person. He loved each person precisely as he or she was. Try to read the Gospels through this lens.

“The affirmer of man has the love of a father who builds a house where the other can be himself and hide his defects from the world, where he can grow and become who he is in his way, in his hour, in the protective humbly serving love of the affirming other… It is in the very same house that the affirmer, too, in self-restraining love of the other, finds the deepest happiness possible” (29).


  1. Affirmation is very important

  2. Sorry, I didn’t complete that thought. Affirmation is very important to help us grow in our relationship with God and in helping others grow in faith. Thanks for taking the time to share this summary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: