Wow! Practicing Affirmation is a unique, profound little book! It’s far from the usual pop psychology self-esteem stuff out there. Instead, Sam Crabtree encourages God-centered affirmation of others as a way to glorify God and deepen relationships.
I struggle with being negative and critical at times. Being affirming to others doesn’t come naturally to me. And yet, as Pastor Crabtree points out, there is something of worth in everyone. Far from advocating man-centered flattery, he maintains that when we acknowledge the image of God in others, we glorify Him! So how do we go about affirming God’s image in others without falling into the praise of man? Here’s one example:
“God-centered affirmations point toward the echoes, shadows, and reality of a righteousness not intrinsic to the person being affirmed. These qualities are gifts, coming from outside people and being worked in them. Even without yet being fully complete, these qualities are nevertheless commendable, and are to be seen and highlighted. We can truthfully say to an unregenerate four-year-old, ‘God is helping you become more…’ and fill in the blank with qualities such as careful with your things (as a steward), cheerful around the house as a singer, cautious around dangerous things like hot stoves, and so on. While the child’s growth in character is commended, God is identified as the source.” (p. 20)
And this is the key: acknowledging God as the source. Affirmation should never terminate on the person, as if they are great in and of themselves. It should terminate on God, the giver of all good gifts.
Pastor Crabtree doesn’t neglect the need for correction, but warns against developing a pattern of over-correction and under-affirming. He’s also careful to distinguish between insincere flattery and God-centered affirmation, encouraging us to “commend only the commendable”. (p. 68) Our affirmations should help others see God at work in their lives, focusing on things like character rather than shallow things like clothing and appearance.
Godly affirmation actually changes us before it changes others! We can be so quick to point out the negative and take the positive for granted. It puts us in the practice of looking at other positively: looking for evidence of God’s work in them. Not only that, God can use us as a means to refresh others and draw them closer to Him!
Practicing Affirmation may be a fairly quick read, but it’s packed with Scripturally sound principles. Some of the ideas are simply common sense, and yet Pastor Crabtree relates it all back to glorifying God and His character in a way that is quite refreshing and motivating! I really appreciated his practical, down to earth style. His homespun humor was refreshing and his personal examples and illustrations were compelling. The book left me motivated to be a “bringer of refreshment”, not just for my own or others’ sakes, but for God’s glory! I highly recommend it.
Thank you to Crossway for the review copy of the book. All opinions are my own.