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How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness Paperback – Sep 1 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (Sept. 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316519332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316519335
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.3 x 18.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #250,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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 the Hardcover edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By A Customer on May 9 2001
Format: Paperback
In America today, there are 3 accepted ways of dealing with personal anguish: religion, psychology, and beer. "How Good Do We Have To Be?" combines a great deal of Old Testament religion (not surprising since the author is a rabbi), quite a few Freudian theories, and leaves the amount of beer to use up to the reader.
The "radically new interpretation" of the story of Eden is nothing new. It has always been a central understanding of my religious background that we are human (and able to experience the joys and pains of being human) only because of what happened in Eden. How Kushner is able to suddenly stumble on this is beyond me (of course I don't have much experience with the Jewish faith).
Overall the book is well written and easily understandable. Chapters deal with forgiving family members, life partners, and ourselves. These chapters are backed up with personal stories (which are probably the book's strongest point).
So how good do we have to be? The answer is "pretty good" if you want to have a job, friends, and good family relations. This book offers no excuses for personal behavior (and repeatedly points out that we must be responsible for our actions). If you come from a guilt producing religion or are carrying a large amount of guilt for any reason, you may find the message in this book useful.
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Format: Paperback
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. This just happened to be the book I picked up- and by the end of the very day I picked it up, I was finished with it. Since then, I have used it as a reference to help me clear guilty/remorseful/vengeful/spiteful & other mentally draining thoughts from my head.
Kushner has a God-given ability to write from the very depths of his soul, and in doing so, he creates an instant rapport with his readers- one that hits them in the heart emotionally, and causes the reader to sit and reflect often.
His "arguments" are wonderfully explained, some may be too "radical" for those who are of the Christian Right mentality, but Kushner defends his points with flair, and a deep down desire to find true meaning in our daily lives. Kushner reveals incredible, thought provoking stories and parables of his life- soem of bliss, some of personal discovery, and some of hardship and pain- and all of these stories are pertinent and relevant to the material at hand.
If words make you cry, several of these stories, and several of these conclusions may just hit a soft spot, even for those who are hardened.
Guilt and Forgiveness- to incredibly difficult subjects that the "human condition" has a hard time dealing with. Kushner takes the reader by the hand, calms you, and walks you down a road and path that more people should consider taking.
If you read any self help book, read this one.
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