Sam Crabtree has written an important book. I knew that I needed to read Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God as soon as I found out about it. And if you are a parent, boss, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, pastor, teacher, mentor or friend, there is a good chance that you need it too. Think about the most influential people in your life – those who have really had an impact on who you are today – and there is a good chance that those people were either really good at affirming you, or really bad at it. My guess is that their ability to affirm well or their lack of ability in this area has strongly impacted you for better or for worse – and that is why this book is important.
I needed to read Practicing Affirmation because I am not good at it. Delivering God-centered praise to those who are not God is not easy, at least not for me. In my attempts to practice affirmation and in my observation of those who are better at it than me, I have come to the conclusion that I am a lazy affirmer. Either I don’t affirm someone at all because I can’t think of anything God-centered and theologically appropriate to affirm in them, or I choose to affirm out of obligation, often resorting to vague, general and sometimes theologically inaccurate affirmations that are so watered-down that they are completely ineffective, perhaps even harmful. So, I am grateful that Sam Crabtree wrote this book for a fool like myself who wants to glorify God through my affirmations of others.
Crabtree assaults my laziness in affirmation by suggesting that I am robbing God of praise by not pointing out “his reflection in the people he has knit together in his image.” God-centered affirmations, Crabtree writes, point to the “echoes, shadows and reality of a righteousness not intrinsic to the person being affirmed.” In other words, most people, regenerate or not, possess commendable attributes given to the by God through common grace. These attributes, as subtle reflections of the God whose image they reflect, are deserving of commendation and praise. To not do so is to miss an opportunity for worship.
What Crabtree advocates throughout the book is not vain, man-centered flattery, but intentional God-centered commendation of Christlike qualities that exist via common grace in every person for the glory of God. Crabtree begins where you might think: the simple principle that people are influenced and relationships are refreshed through affirmation. Affirmation is the key, Crabtree says, to refreshing relationships. But it is a complex key. While affirmation helps us earn right standing with others, lifts morale, energizes people, and makes us easier to live with, it is not God-centered affirmation unless it causes us to look for Christlike qualities to affirm, showcases the character of God and glorifies God and not man. This is a tall order, and it is why I say that God-centered affirmation is hard.
There is much to be commended in the book itself, as well as in Sam Crabtree’s authenticity in writing it. Crabtree devotes an entire chapter to the mistakes that he has made, which made me feel a little better about my own inadequacy in this area. He also devotes a full chapter to each of the following:
- frequently asked questions
- the Christlike qualities that help us turn “sightings of Jesus” into opportunities for affirmation
- the important subject of how to affirm when correction is also necessary, and
- an entire chapter on “100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck.
I am thankful that Sam Crabtree so accurately reflects the character and nature of Christ in practically and helpfully pointing the way to God-centered affirmation of those who are not God. Thanks for writing this book, Sam! (Can you tell that I am already working on applying what I have learned? How am I doing?)
[Disclosure of Material Connection: Crossway sent me a free review copy of this book. I was not asked to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]