Thursday, July 26, 2007

How People Grow, by Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend

This book was a Bookfest read which I finally got around to reading. I'm so glad I did.

I really don't know how to review this book because it became something very personal. When something is personal, it's much harder to talk about it and to share. I found it convicting, revealing, challenging and not at all what I expected. I do not say any of that lightly.

I think the most significant way it worked to change my mind was to convince me that Biblical counseling is a good thing to pursue. A lot of people (myself included) have made fun of going to see a counselor or needing a psychologist to get through a particular issue. Many Christians have taken the position (myself formerly included) that you were in a very BAD place if you needed to see a "specialist" to sort out your problems. I don't believe that any more. In fact, sometimes I think its the healthiest and most beneficial thing a person can do. As the good doctors in this book pointed out, Christians typically are anti-professional counseling while attempting to counsel as individuals all the time. It's double-talk. We are all smart enough to realize that everyone needs help and advice from time to time. There are some people who are better at giving it than others.

I also always kinda of looked at professional counseling as a way to blame your parents for your every problem and that seemed a bit excessive and overboard to me. Now I see that its a given that the way that you are raised is going to effect who you are. We say so every day, all day long. Think about it. When you get married you explain why you do this-or-that by saying, "That's the way we did it when I was growing up." Your past effects the present and the future. I can't see a way around that. (Please note that neither myself or Drs. Cloud & Townsend are blaming their mothers. I'm not going to extend this argument or declaration beyond this statement. Hopefully you can just see what I wrote and take it for what it is.)

Drs. Cloud & Townsend take a healthy approach to problems and suffering by saying that it is through the problems and pains of life that we learn to be more Christ-like. In other words, we are not to make excuses for the pain, try to find away around the pain and/or pretend that it does not exist. (If you do any of that -- you DO have a problem.) They say that you must work THROUGH the pain in order to mature and grow. They summarize their book with the following statement:

" . . . Get to know God better, and take Him and what you learn into every life situation you encounter. For then, we believe, you will realize Jesus' promise: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32). Learn His teaching, and hold on to it as you live. Then you will really know it, and it will set you free to love God, to love others, to be all you were created to be, and to find the path God has ordained specifically for you. This is how people grow -- grow for life." (p. 362)

I'm not going to disclose how I've changed through the reading of this book. Suffice it to say that I have. One way is to see the need for outside counsel of "this magnitude" instead of just assuming that "professional, paid counselors are bad." I definitely think its important to go to a Christian counseler as opposed to a secular one. Drs. Cloud & Townsend give a very clear, scriptural based argument for why it is important to face problems in the light of scripture and work through them in the sight of God. I don't think you can get more healthy in your approach than that!

I'm glad I read this book. I think that there is a time and a place for people to read this book. Maybe this is not your time and maybe this isn't the right "place" for you just yet. However, for anyone who is struggling with any particular issue and doesn't quite know how to handle or deal with it, you might consider this book. If you think going to a counseler is a silly waste of time, you might want to read this book. I think you will find that it will change you as well.

(P.S. I also picked up a copy of The Unwritten Rules of Friendship for my Saturday Review Challenge. In light of "How People Grow" . . . "Unwritten Rules" is PERFECT dribble.)


Unknown said...

I hadn't even heard of this book, but it sounds interesting. I do like Cloud and Townsend.

Mikaila said...

I'm looking forward to checking out this book!

Paul said...

This is the best book on growth that I have seen, and I use it at times in my practice (as a Christian Psychologist). I have also used it for classes at church. Dr.K

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