My husband used to tell me that I ought to purchase books printed on yellow paper in order to save the highlighter. I have since resorted to marking books with pens or pencils so that I can write notes liberally in the margins as thoughts or questions arise. However, Practicing Affirmation is a book that could easily have been printed on yellow paper. I marked almost every page of this book (most often in hearty agreement with the author ;). With endorsements by John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, this is no surprise.
While there are many books on the market that focus on encouraging and praising others, I think there are a number of characteristics that make this book unique, God-honoring, and worthwhile. Most importantly, Sam Crabtree's emphasis throughout the book is on God's glory. "God is glorified in us when we affirm the work he has done and is doing in others" (pg. 12). Mr. Crabtree urges readers to word their commendation of others carefully so that it "steals nothing from the glory of God..." (pg. 15).
Furthermore, Crabtree makes an appropriate and important distinction between God-centered affirmation and man-centered affirmation:
"Western culture's emphasis on self-esteem has resulted in a yawning response to the gospel. The main problem the gospel solves is God's wrath toward sinners, but if one's inflated self esteem is telling him he's not all that bad really, then why is God so uptight" (pg. 94)?
Crabtree writes: "...affirmation, especially if it isn't God-centered, can have a hardening effect" (pg. 95). In many ways, our words can be used to draw others toward God or to push them away. Crabtree explains that affirmation is a means to the end of proclaiming the Gospel and that we gain a hearing from others when we are not constantly negative.
There is much more that could be said about this book. In sum, Practicing Affirmation is insightful and practical. The final chapter lists "100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck." This is a helpful tool. You may realize that you are already doing a lot of the things on the list as most of them aren’t hard or time-consuming. If you want to learn “how to refresh people with affirmations that are explicitly Christ-honoring” (pg. 133), this book is an excellent place to begin. Sam Crabtree helps the reader understand that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue…" (Proverbs 18:21). What you say matters!
If you'd like to read a sample, you can read the Forward and Chapter 1 on Crossway's product page and the Table of Contents and Chapter 4 on Westminster's product page.
*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!