Saturday, May 21, 2011


The more study that is done, the more the principals of Christian living are validated. Readers may recall the studies done in the 70s and 80s that determined those individuals who had strong religious beliefs made a faster recovery from illness and surgery. That was followed up with another study that proved that those who were prayed for did better than those who weren’t. The conclusion? The materialists were wrong; religion is more than an opiate of the uninformed and prayer DOES work.

Now, Stephen Post takes this thinking to its logical conclusion and proves that active helping not only benefits the recipient; it benefits the giver as well. Mankind, it seems, has been hard-wired by its Creator to garner good from good works. The goodness of what was once referred to as the corporal works of mercy has been proven. We frequently hear that a person cannot out-give God. Unfortunately, all too often this is message is accompanied by an appeal for funds. The implicit message being, “Donate to (fill in the blank) and God will repay you.” He will, of course. However, money is man’s currency not God’s. He deals in other, more valuable commodities.

Giving, claims Post, extends lifespan, relieves stress, improves mental health, and helps the heart. Post's work is a welcome antidote to the contracted thinking of a recession and should be welcomed by church groups and charitable organizations as well as Christian readers. The challenge of service is to discover your hidden gift and then to give to those who need it most. It could be serving food to the homeless, or supporting a shelter for abused women, or regularly visiting shut-ins. Post believes that happiness arises from four elements that create a spiritual foundation: loving others, the presence of moral integrity, the ability to enjoy thankful simplicity, and staying true to your higher purpose.

He lists ten ways in which we can share the wealth, and surprisingly—or maybe not so surprisingly—none of them involve money. They are:

1. Celebration is an acknowledgement of shared joy that positively affects people around us, and reflects gratitude.
2. Helping others in ways small and large, while setting an example of generous behavior for others.
3. Forgiveness frees us from inner turmoil and opens up the possibility of reconciliation based on meaningful apology.
4. Care-frontation addresses destructive behaviors in individuals and injustices in society while still maintaining an underlying concern for the well-being of everyone without exception.
5.  Humor is the gift of reframing a situation with loving laughter. It’s just hard to imagine loving someone you can’t laugh with a bit.
6.  Respect means taking others seriously in their opinions and life journeys, striving for genuine civility in discourse, and practicing basic etiquette in speech and behavior.
7.  Attentive listening requires a focused and full presence, undistracted and unhurried.
8.  Compassion is responding wisely to suffering when we see it.
9.  Loyalty demonstrates the human ability to bond deeply and meaningfully with others.
10. Creativity is the tool that allows unique, personalized expression of our love for others.

As Post puts it. “All spiritual and philosophical traditions of value exhort us to move past the sense that ‘I am the center of the universe…’ to a real concern for others as others. The individual needs to have confidence that ‘I am the right person at the right moment to do good to this person right beside me, and to everyone I encounter.’ Plato was right – virtue really is its own reward. We tend to feel better when we live generously. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad.’

Even in the worst of times, we are people of inner love and good will, and bringing this forth saves us; not bringing it forth destroys us. Of course, we are bombarded by the ‘news’ of hatred and wanton violence with all the nonstop updates that make it seem even worse. And so many websites and lyrics cultivate a culture of hatred that spirals ever downward, turning the hearts of otherwise good people into destructive and self-destructive darkness. So we all need to ‘keep our eyes on the helpers’ who bring forth kindness despite harsh times.”

Read thoughtfully, this is a book that can change lives…first yours, and then those that you help. I strongly recommend the The Hidden Gifts of Helping by Stephen G. Post.
—E.G. Lewis

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