Book Review: Practicing Affirmation

By Sam Crabtree (I read the Kindle edition)

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The book is actually called Practicing Affirmation: God-centred praise of those who are not God (but this would not have made for a very snappy title), and that pretty much describes the book to a T.

He makes a very good case for why we should be encouraging each other and how we should be doing it (he even includes a handy guide of 100 ways that you can affirm somebody), making lots of good use of scripture on the way. For example, he’s very fond of Hebrews 3:13:

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

It’s all good stuff. His central point is that since we are made in God’s image, we should be seeking to praise in people what we would praise in God, and that is, godly character. Ultimately, this is God-centred praise. He also suggests ways in which we might accidentally not affirm each other (one of his examples is sarcastically telling someone there’s a clock in the same room as you when that person asks you the time).

He puts a good case that affirmation is not simply about instilling a feel-good factor for its own sake, but rather a godly prerogative for kingdom-building. He also includes suggestions for how to correct somebody who’s wrong or wayward (though his “affirmation ratio” of 3 affirmations for every correction seems somewhat formulaic and arbitrary). There’s also a lot of wise words on avoiding shallowness and flattery, affirmation in marriage, and also in parenting.

It’s obviously written with an American audience in mind- I kind of wish he’d included a chapter for us Brits to avoid the whole “If I say this he/she’ll think I’m weird” scenario which I know I’ve had many, many times (for the record, I’ve come to the conclusion that that is no good reason not to encourage someone, as it borders on selfishness- if  they think it’s weird then at least they will remember you…).

It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you’re a small group leader. But then you knew all this already, because you’re brilliant.

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