The Wrong Kind of Self-Help

Deliver me from “self-help” writers who haven’t left the “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” mindset.

I have always had an interest in architecture, and a few years ago I read and enjoyed The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. We had recently moved from our very small “starter home” to this bigger house, and I was discovering that just because a home is bigger doesn’t make it better. In our smaller house, every inch of space was designed for efficient use. Not so with this house, and that drives me crazy sometimes. Susanka’s architecture book was full of interesting designs and ideas that made sense to me.

Anyway, I discovered that Susanka had written a new book, and I found it at the library.

I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. I didn’t get too far into it before I realized that it was NOT for me. First of all, it was a self-help book, not a book about architecture. In the introduction, I read that

It’s possible to start living a Not So Big Life of full, rich, vivid moments where everything that happens to us is experienced fully, and where spirit and connection have room to thrive.

At that point it was very clear that I was reading a book written from an extremely narcissistic viewpoint. I felt like I was reading nonfiction written by Richard Bach, because Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah were both advocating the same school of thought.

Out of curiosity, I turned to the index and looked up “religion.” Only one page was listed, and I flipped to that one to see the tiny mention that gave away Susanka’s whole outlook: “to see that my inner experience was real and didn’t require validation by a spiritual institution.”

I don’t need to go to a book to have my faith practices scorned. And I don’t need or want “freedom” from religion. On the contrary, I am sure that if I really work at practicing what I believe, the simplicity I seek will follow.

Last night’s Evening Prayer contained the following intercession:

Help those who do not know God but seek your presence in the shadows and projections of the human mind; make them new persons in the light of Christ.


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