The basis of man's life with man is twofold and it is one--the wish of every man to be confirmed as what he is, even as what he can become, by men; and the innate capacity in man to confirm his fellow man in this way. That this capacity lies so immeasurably fallow constitutes the real weakness and questionableness of the human race: actual humanity exists only where this capacity unfolds.
The great theologian and philosopher Martin Buber used the word "confirmation" to signify the process whereby a person can become more fully who he or she is, can realize his or her human potential. Whether we realize it or not, the longing for confirmation in this sense is, perhaps, the greatest expectation we bring to loving partnerships. Why, then, does it appear that we give it so little attention and that it lies, as Buber says, "fallow"?
One answer is, quite simply, that nobody ever told us that we really can help others realize their human potential. We have been told, of course, that we can help our children develop their skills by providing them with the best teachers and equipment, with the time and encouragement needed if they are to succeed in our competitive society. But nobody ever told us that we could or should do anything in particular to help our children achieve greater authenticity, auton-