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Book Review: Practicing Affirmation

June 12, 2012

Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree was a book I needed to read. I already knew that I needed to affirm others more, but this book has heightened my desire and given me reasons to do so.

The book is straight to the point. It is not necessarily smooth, but black and white;  you don’t have to wonder where the author stands. This made it harder to read, but powerful. And after the first couple chapters I got used to the author’s “aim and fire” method of delivery.

Mr. Crabtree answers well the sticky question about whether affirmation of the unregenerate is appropriate. He gives a loud and clear “YES!” He bases his resounding approval on the fact that mankind is made in God’s image  to make this case. He is careful to point out  that all praise should be toward the Christlike character so that ultimately God is the receiver of our praise. For example: There are many people who are diligent in their work and this Christlike character should be affirmed in them.

Sam Crabtree reminds us that affirmation is a key to a door. It is not the most important thing in a relationship, but it allows us access. When criticism outweighs the affirmations, sooner or later our “hearer” will start to tune us out. While Mr. Crabtree  says that there is a place for both the stick  (correction) and the carrot (affirmation) in all relationships, his warning is clear: Use the stick sparingly with brokeness and sorrow and use the carrot abundantly. 

The overarching theory of the author is that  by refreshing others with affirmation, we ourselves benefit by receiving mercy. The definition of this mercy according to the author lies in the fact that we don’t deserve to have others forgive us, listen to us, or give us any second chances, but they can and do when we affirm. This, then,  is a mercy from God.

As I read the book, I could not help but realize that sometimes our ungratefulness prevents us from seeing and then recognizing the little changes wrought by the Spirit in someone’s life. When we look only to perfection, we are missing opportunities to spur the recipient on in their progress.

An example from my life: A friend commented to me that she does not plant green beans in her garden, because as a child she had to weed the beans.  This reminded me of a time when I stayed with my aunt and uncle and cousins. All the kids had to weed in the garden for an hour before they could play. Later, when my parents returned, I heard my uncle tell them that I had done a great job and he didn’t think any weeks would return to the rows I had weeded. Now, weeding is not my favorite garden chore, but I think about his comment (from 40 years ago!) every time I weed and I work hard to live up to it.  The quality of my firend’s work as a child might have been just as good, yet she didn’t receive any affirmation. What a lasting difference that made in each of our lives.

Unfortunately, the book will not change your actions. We are each responsible to act upon what we know. Sam Crabtree does not leave us to flounder about on our own, but ends the book with “100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck.”

So I am trying to be more affirming in my relationships. As someone who by nature expects much from myself and others, this is hard. But I am convinced it is not just worthwhile, but affirming others cannot be neglected.

 

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