Thursday, October 6, 2016

Everyone deserves a second chance. Yes, that means you! (Brief review)

The subject line of the email inviting me to review the book declared, “Hope for Prodigals and Outcasts from ‘This Generation’s Brennan Manning’.”

I’m a fan of the late Brennan Manning, so I bit.

The book is People of the Second Chance: A Guide to Bringing Life-Saving Love to the World (Waterbrook) which is a very Manning-ish title, to be sure.  And the author, Mike Foster, tackles the general topic of shame, just as Manning did. But, for me, that’s where the comparison ends. But wait! That’s not to say the book is not without merit.

In a friendly, breezy style, Foster shares some of his own hard life stories and how he has coped. These, and the stories of others, are linked by quips, quotes, and some instruction.

If you’ve screwed up or been hurt by someone or, basically, have live your life, then this book may be helpful healing the wounds and guilt that have resulted. The crux of the book’s message is summed up by Foster, who states:
“It’s important to remember that you aren’t a machine, or a project, or a problem. And neither are other people. You don’t need to become someone you are not, and you don’t need to be perfect in order to grow. Our imperfections are what make us human, and they help us to relate to each other. Or as songwriter Leonard Cohen says, ‘That’s how the light gets in.’ It’s also the cracks that let the light out. So let’s ditch the shame and start to shine. Show off your flaws. Share all that you are.”
The reality is that to some degree we’re all broken. We’ve all failed and made mistakes. We all have those bruised places that are hard to share with others. Those emotional wounds that need tending.

The book seeks to dispel the common false self-narratives that result from our failings, those lies we tell ourselves over and over:
  1.  I don’t deserve a second chance.
  2.  I am my shame. I am my secrets.
  3.  I will always feel and be this way.
  4.  I am defined by my worst moment.
  5.  My life my, my dreams, my hopes no longer matter.
Foster counters, declaring, “You are not made to live under the weight of religion or guilt or chronic not-enough-ness. You are made to enjoy the love of God.”

Throughout the book Foster shares how to both find healing as well as share healing with others. One of those sharing methods involves what he calls a “prodigal party.”

In other words, just as the father feted his returned prodigal son, so should we celebrate the lives of the least around us. Says Foster, “The Creator celebrates broken things as a way to love us. And this, my friend, is the same thing that he invites us to do.” I have to admit, it’s an intriguing idea.

Despite the book’s value and strengths, a more structured presentation of the “how to” with better visual cues would have been a good idea. The “how to” is in there, but not always easily discernible. 

Additionally, given the chatty breeziness of the book it can be a little disconcerting when a very serious and sobering life-example is shared. This is especially true when Foster presents an especially personal experience.

Also, if you like a lot of scripture references in your Christian self-help books, you won’t find them here, which does not mean the ideas presented are not biblical. But then there are times when being hit with a lot of Bible verses isn’t helpful.

In a place of pain, it’s sometimes more useful to be able to learn that others have been where we are, that we’re not alone in being a faulty human being, that there’s hope despite the pain. This is what Foster offers.


NOTE: To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: I selected this book to review and received it free from the publisher -- in this instance it was an uncorrected proof. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Have you overcome guilt and shame in your life? Have you been able to share these experiences with others? Use them to help others overcome their issues? What other books have you found helpful? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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