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How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness [Paperback]

Harold Kushner
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1997
From the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People comes an inspiring new bestseller that puts human feelings of guilt and inadequacy in perspective - and teaches us how we can learn to accept ourselves and others even when we and they are less than perfect. How Good Do We Have to Be? is for everyone who experiences that sense of guilt and disappointment. Harold Kushner, writing with his customary generosity and wisdom, shows us how human life is too complex for anyone to live it without making mistakes, and why we need not fear the loss of God's love when we are less than perfect. Harold Kushner begins by offering a radically new interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve, which he sees as a tale of Paradise Outgrown rather than Paradise Lost: eating from the Tree of Knowledge was not an act of disobedience, but a brave step forward toward becoming human, complete with the richness of work, sexuality and child-rearing, and a sense of our mortality. Drawing on modern literature, psychology, theology,,and his own thirty years of experience as a congregational rabbi, Harold Kushner reveals how acceptance and forgiveness can change our relationships with the most important people in our lives and help us meet the bold and rewarding challenge of being human.

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From Library Journal

Jewish and Christian religions reinforce feelings of guilt and inadequacy by using the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve to teach that humankind's spiritual inadequacies are inherent. Rabbi Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 1981) here retells the Genesis story of the primeval couple to demonstrate that the imperfections of humankind do not merit the loss of God's love, nor should they foster the guilt and anxiety that they often do in a society driven by a misguided attachment to perfection. Combining psychology and spirituality, Kushner invokes the power of acceptance and forgiveness as a means of overcoming the insidious consequences of a preoccupation with perfection. For most libraries.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kushner, best known for his best-selling When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1985), here deals with an equally vexing topic, overcoming shame and guilt. As in his other books, Rabbi Kushner turns to the Bible to find answers to hard questions, and when it comes to guilt and shame, there is no better place to start than at the beginning, with the story of Adam and Eve. The disobedience shown in the Garden of Eden came to be known as original sin, sort of a gene for badness that is passed down from generation to generation. But Kushner has a different take on the Adam and Eve story, seeing the duo as brave rather than disobedient, willing to risk paradise to become fully human. It must be said that Kushner tends to twist a tale until it fits the point he is trying to make (this is especially true in his discussion of Cain and Abel); nevertheless, his arguments, directly stated, are always thought provoking and people centered. Kushner is clearly writing to bring comfort and to show his audience how to find forgiveness in their own lives, whether that forgiveness is directed toward others or oneself. This is one psychological self-help book that deserves the popularity it is likely to achieve. Ilene Cooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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I LOOK OUT at a synagogue filled to overflowing, every seat taken, people standing in the rear aisle. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A loving book by a wonderful man Jan. 5 2004
Format:Paperback
When this book was originally published in 1996, I met Rabbi Kushner at a lecture and book signing event in a synagogue in Omaha, Nebraska. As a Catholic making my first visit to a synagogue, I felt a bit apprehensive about making an inadvertant faux-pas. When the Rabbi started speaking, I felt comfortable right away. His presence felt, not like a high-ranking church official, not like a person of celebrity, but rather like a good neighbor -- someone who might live next door, who I would see mowing the grass and passing out Halloween candy, someone who just happened to be presenting his beliefs on the topic because that is *who he is*, and that the lecture is *what he does*, and that when it was over, he might share a ride home.
I had seen, in my religion classes, presentations by Leo Buscaglia. Leo was a man who exuded love, yet almost had a larger-than-life intimidation feeling around him because of it. Rather like a TV evangelist, one never knew when you would be grabbed and "healed"; or, in Leo's case, grabbed and hugged and loved! Not that it's a bad thing, just a bit intimidating.
Rabbi Kushner also exudes love, but he has an exactly-life-size feel. Seeing him at a podium, meeting him in person, I got the feeling that despite being well-known, that he is *a real person*, all the time, and that he doesn't have some stage persona, some celebrity, some image to put on in front of people. Rabbi Kushner simply is who he is -- a man. He is a man who loves G_d (I believe that is the proper Jewish way to write it?), a man who loves people, and a man who has made it his life's work to help bring the two closer together.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bless Your Imperfections April 3 2004
Format:Paperback
I don't know if it is because I've read 3 other books by Rabbi Kushner, or because from the first words to the last words reading this book I feel like I am having a conversation with him. This includes many questions about life, the human condition, and religion that I have carried with me for a long time.
If someone had mentioned religion, God, or related words to me before discovering both Rabbi Kushner, and Dennis Prager, I would have been ready to bolt for the nearest door, because that had signaled what I called "Bible-thumpin time."
So, no matter where you stand on religion, politics, or the human condition, I invite you to open your mind to the possibility of forgiveness.
With the subtitle being "A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness," it's nice to notice that throughout this book Kushner discusses many examples of what guilt has been for us.
He uses "The Original Sin;" "Paradise Lost;" and many other stories that show how we have interpreted God's expectations of us to mean that we are born sinners who must become perfect. Which of course is not, as he points out, God's expectations of us.
Kushner adds, "My experiences as a clergyman and a counselor has taught me that much of the unhappiness people feel burdened by, much of the guilt, much of the sense of having been cheated by life, stems from one of two related causes: either somewhere along the way, somebody - a parent, a teacher, a religious leader - gave them the message that they were not good enough, and they believed it. Or else they came to expect and need more from the people around them --- their parents, children, husbands, or wives - than those people could realistically deliver.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing View April 25 2003
Format:Paperback
A thoroughly enjoyable read that has surprising depth of feeling about people's basic goodness and our shared need to embrace our own humanity. Some of Kushner's advice may seem a bit pithy when faced with the blood guilt of those who have endured great evil and through their professions were faced with death and tragedy, but for the more common predilection for angst based on imagined ills brought on by religious self-intolerance, this book offers a fresh perspective and practical advice that makes sense of so many anxieties suffered by the truly devout. David R. Bannon, Ph.D.; author "Race Against Evil."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing View April 25 2003
Format:Paperback
A thoroughly enjoyable read that has surprising depth of feeling about people's basic goodness and our shared need to embrace our own humanity. Some of Kushner's advice may seem a bit pithy when faced with the blood guilt of those who have endured great evil and through their professions were faced with death and tragedy, but for the more common predilection for angst based on imagined ills brought on by religious self-intolerance, this book offers a fresh perspective and practical advice that makes sense of so many anxieties suffered by the truly devout. David R. Bannon, Ph.D.; author "Race Against Evil."
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Format:Paperback
Wonderful interpretation of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
How we all evolved from the animal kingdom to the human kingdom.
Our eyes were opened and we were made aware of right from wrong, of evil vs. good. We have choices, we are not programmed by God to be a certain way, we can choose to be or not to be.
Another book by Rabbi Kushner that has been life changing is the wonderful little book "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People".
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective
My response is based only on chapter 2, What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? I have a very different opinion than Kushner on Genesis 3. Read more
Published on June 20 2004 by Scott Broughton
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spiritual Sigh of Relief
I was asked recently in my bible study group who I would most like to meet. It was an easy answer -- Harold Kushner. Read more
Published on Oct. 12 2001 by Leigh A. Merryday
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the beef?
In America today, there are 3 accepted ways of dealing with personal anguish: religion, psychology, and beer. "How Good Do We Have To Be? Read more
Published on May 9 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best "Self-Help" Books Ever
I'm not much on self-help books, and I really never have been. Three years ago, a college course required me to pick up a self help book and evaluate it. Read more
Published on March 2 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars How Good Do We Have to Be
A life changing book. It liberated me to not be so critical and judgemental of others and myself. It gives sound guidance on many areas of real importance: marriage, death, God,... Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2001 by Michael J. Salamone
4.0 out of 5 stars *We don't have to be perfect*
This is a great book for anyone who has trouble accepting themselves as they are. Kushner, a well-known rabbi, once again gives us a very helpful book. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2000 by annie
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the title fool you
The book isn't paper prozac like the title may suggest. It is written by a Rabbi who gives the best interpretation of the story of Adam&Eve and the fall of man that I've ever... Read more
Published on Dec 20 2000 by owookiee
5.0 out of 5 stars a new understanding of the garden of eden story
what a fantastic book! i especially enjoyed kushner's explanation of why God allowed man to fall - that we had to experience sin/bad/work in order to appreciate goodness! Read more
Published on July 5 2000
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