Beacon Publishing for
The subtitle of this book is "A True Story about Why We Sabotage Ourselves, Feel Overwhelmed, Set Aside Our Dreams, and Lack the Courage to Simply Be Ourselves... and How to Start Choosing Happiness Again" and that is quite a mouthful. But having read a number of Matthew Kelly's books over the last few years I was very excited to read this one. I must admit I read this book while rereading Rediscover Jesus, I read it through once and could not put it down, and am now reading it through a chapter a day. It was very interesting reading these two books in parallel. Matthew Kelly states in the introduction that this book is the most personal book that he has written to date. Having read a number of the others I completely agree. He has opened up and been transparent about his own faith journey, his successes, growth and failures. He is teaching by example, his example. And what a brave, courageous and motivating example it is.
Matthew also shares a number of stories that he has shared before. But this is the most exhaustive collection of them, and some of them go into more details or extended versions of the stories. So this book is part autobiography, part spiritual history and part a guidebook for those of us who wish to grow in the Christian life. Matthew states in the introduction: "The hardest war to win is one you don't even realize you are fighting, and the hardest enemy to defeat is the one you don't even know exists. Every day you are at war with resistance." And he goes on from there to show us this pattern from his own life. And like many of Kelly's other writings the focus is not on him but on God, and our relationship with God, "When I did something that I knew was God's will, something that would clearly help me become a-better-version-of-myself, I was filled with joy. When I did something that I knew was wrong or was clearly not good for me, that joy began to evaporate." And is that not what Jesus promised in Matthew 5:6 'For the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.' How many of us would say we are truly living the abundant life? That we are living from a place of Joy? Kelly also declares "It is clear that God does not want us to be negative thinkers. But he also doesn't want our thinking to be neutral. He wants us to be positive thinkers on an epic scale." Would you say you are living that way? If not this book might open your eyes and your heart to following the Holy Spirit more.
In speaking specifically about parenting and working with children Kelly says "I suppose we all need a chance to get outside ourselves and serve other people. It seems the earlier in life we get this chance in a real and tangible way- a chance to serve others, know that we have worth, discover our innate ability to make a difference in other people's lives- the better off we are." And I think about my own children and How I want them to learn to live to become the best version of themselves. We regularly read Kelly's Why Am I Here as a family, and my children often talk about decisions that help them or hinder them from being that best version of themselves. But by growing in it from the learning in this book, hopefully and prayerfully I can be a better example.
One of the key takeaways I got from read this book was about self discipline, even self discipline in the little things. Matthew says "These realizations about denying ourselves, self-control, delayed gratification, and fasting are not new. They are wrapped up in two thousand years of Catholic genius. Saint Augustine wrote, "Conquer yourself and the world lies at your feet."" And learning from his examples we can start small and build to bigger disciplines. But on that same note Kelly says if we are striving to grow in discipline we will also experience greater resistance "Resistance hates discipline. It hates self-control. Resistance abhors delayed gratification and any type of self-denial that makes your heart, mind, and soul strong." He also advises us that if we want to see change we need to be part of making that change happen. "If you want to be part of an excellent parish, stop waiting for someone else to make it one. Get involved and make it an excellent parish. Resistance encourages us to take it easy and settle for mediocrity. But God created us for happiness, and he fills us with great joy as we strive for excellence, especially in the spiritual life." Matthew insists:
"God wants you to live an excellent life. In that quest for excellence you will find a rare happiness."
He also stresses the importance of being gentle with ourselves as part of the processs. "One of the most important reasons to be gentle with ourselves is because if we cannot forgive ourselves, we will struggle to forgive others. And if we cannot forgive ourselves or others, we will resist even God's forgiveness. When we are gentle with ourselves, when we are patient with ourselves, we develop awareness, and awareness breeds compassion. And every person who ever crosses your path needs a little compassion." And also
"Be gentle with yourself, be gentle with others, and never stop striving to be all that God created you to be: the-very-best-version-of-yourself."
And again he always cycles back to being who God calls us to be. He says "God designed human beings for specific purposes. When we stray from them, things tend to go wrong and we start to feel dissatisfied at best and miserable at worst. You were made for mission. You will never have lasting happiness until you realize this and act on it.".
This book was an excellent read, and I know already that I will read it again soon. Matthew draws examples from his own life and a few examples from outside his life. Each chapter has a main teaching followed by a reminder of the Key Point and Action Step at the end of the chapter. This is a great read and it will inspire you.
On a side note I am still waiting in anticipation for The Narrow Path that Dynamic Catholic promoted for almost a year but keeps getting pushed back but books like this one and Rediscover Jesus. But both Rediscover Jesus and this book are excellent reads, that will have immediate impact on all areas of your life if you read them with an open hear. So give this book a read or a listen all you have to lose is your resistance. And you have a world of joy and happiness to gain, true joy found only in God.
I Know Jesus
The Long View
Decision Point: The Workbook
Decision Point: The Leader Guide
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
The One Thing
Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion
Why Am I Here?
Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children
The Dream Manager
The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved
The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose
Building Better Families - 5 Practical Ways to Build Family Spirituality
The Book of Courage
The Shepherd: A Modern Parable about Our Search for Happiness
Mustard Is Persecution, Matthew Kelly Foundation
A Call to Joy - Living in the Presence of God
The Rhythm of Life: An Antidote For Our Busy Age
Words from God
The Narrow Path
Audio by Matthew Kelly from Lighthouse Media:
Becoming The Best Version Of Yourself
The Best Way To Live
Don't Just Try, Train
Faith At Work & The Holy Moment
The Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic - Excerpt
The Jesus Question
My Spiritual Journey
Our Lives Change When Our Habits Change
Raising Amazing Children
The Seven Levels Of Intimacy
The Seven Pillars Of Catholic Spirituality
(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)