SHAME AND GRACE

HEALING THE SHAME WE DON'T DESERVE

Another compassionate, down-to-earth bit of religious self-help from Smedes (Psychology/Fuller Theological Seminary; A Pretty Good Person, 1990, etc.). The basic message couldn't be simpler: Shame can be healthy or unhealthy; when shame is unhealthy, the cure is God's grace. Smedes begins by distinguishing shame from guilt: We feel guilty for what we do, but we feel shame for what we are. Shame is a ``very heavy feeling,'' a sense that we are failures in life, unfit, unworthy. Candidates for shame include those who compulsively seek approval, compare themselves to others, get trapped by unreal ideals. Shame isn't always wrong, however: It may be a ``call from our true selves,'' an opportunity to improve our lives. Or it may be an illness that comes from listening to our ``false self.'' We may magnify our faults, or feel rejection from a group, or be wrongly shamed by secular or religious teachings. Whatever the cause, we need a radical cure: to lower our expectations or improve our behavior just won't cut the mustard. The only solution, says Smedes—who buttresses his view with many anecdotes, some of remarkable poignancy—is to surrender to God's love, to receive ``the gift of being accepted before we become acceptable.'' Grace will be experienced as pardon from our wrongs, gratitude for life, a new ability to know God. And where can grace be found? In friends, warm memories, a loving community. In time, deeper changes will occur: We will live life more lightly, identify ourselves with Christ (the earthly manifestation of God), know the real meaning of joy. Smedes closes with two lists: a 12-part ``creed'' that readers may use as a model to fashion their own creed, and suggestions for further reading, with some surprises (Sartre) mixed in with the expected (Bonhoeffer). Succinct, unpatronizing advice, sure to be of help to some of those who need it.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-067521-7

Page Count: 165

Publisher: Zondervan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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