Practicing Affirmation Book Review (3.5/5)

Affirmation apologetic, but lacks practicality (for me)

In "Practicing Affirmation," Sam Crabtree presents an excellent apologetic in defense of affirming others. It is a practice long-neglected and much-needed. He explains why affirming others, despite their sin, is a good, uplifting, and godly practice for both parties. He scorns flattery, manipulation, and praise of worldly attributes and differentiates these from biblical affirmation, which looks for the image of the divine in each person. This affirmation is warranted, he argues, because the unregenerate individual is made in the image of God, and the regenerate believer is re-made in the image of Christ. When we become students of those around us and look for ways that God is working in them, we gain the power to both encourage them as individuals and glorify the God who works in and through them.

Certainly, it can't be denied that Crabtree had practical application in mind when he wrote the book with chapters on: "Mistakes [He] Has Made," "Question and Answers," "Sightings of Jesus," "Mixing Correction with Affirmation," and "100 Affirmation Ideas for Those who Feel Stuck."

By the end, though, I was left wanting more.  Crabtree offers a lot of good ideas for starting points, but I felt I couldn't relate to a lot of the examples he gave.  For example, he affirmed his daughter when seeing that she organized her room: "I like what you've done here!  You're methodical.  This makes complete sense.  Very orderly.  Very systematized.  I see the character of God in this.  Jesus does everything decently and in order, and your orderliness reflects this."  On another occasion, he affirmed her when he saw her hugging her mom: "I love what you're doing!  It is so good for an eleven-year-old to be hugging her mom!  It's good for the young woman.  It's good for the mom.  It's good for the dad who happens to walk past.  And I think it pleases God himself!"

A lot of Crabtree's examples come from positions of authority: parent/ child, teacher/ student, employer/ employee.  His other examples came from adversarial conversations: addressing a pro-choice protester or debating with an atheist.  While he does provide ideas for ways to affirm in other contexts besides these, based on my life-stage and experience, I would have benefited from more solid examples of affirming peers, coworkers, parents, and bosses instead.

Though "Practicing Affirmation" didn't give me any easy answers, it certainly has started the thinking process. I find myself becoming more appreciative of others, more joyful in my interactions, and finding ways that I can affirm them. I thank God for the wisdom he's given Crabtree to write in this book, and I think this is a great educational tool for those wanting to live out their faith in community with other believers and evangelical relationships with others.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of "Practicing Affirmation" by the publisher but was not paid for my review. The opinions and impressions expressed herein are my own.)