Online Book Club Discussion Summary: Everybody's Normal Part 3 - Achieving Personal Growth & Strong Relationships

Posted at 08:15am on 29th December 2010

You've probably realised, from Parts One and Two of this Online Book Club discussion, just how taken I was with John Ortberg's book, Everybody's Normal Till You Get To Know Them. Having expounded the truth that there is no such thing as *normality*, and then shown his readers the ways in which personal growth may be achieved through authenticity, acceptance, empathy and conflict the author moves on to the idea that community is worth fighting for. With UK politicians talking of our broken society, and studies showing that 44% of British children are now born out of wedlock, this would seem to be a word for our time.


Writing about the art of reading people, Ortberg states that "people who don't take themselves too seriously give a great gift to those around them." One of the members of my real-time Book Club has the gift of fun and laughter, but undervalues the joyous affect she has on others. Yet Ortberg cites an article on relationship psychology which concludes that we are thirty times more likely to laugh in company, than we are alone!

We, in the Book Club, proved the point when it came to the next issue raised in the book. "Are you a dog person, or a cat person?" asks Ortberg, displaying a flair for creative writing. "A dog says: You love me, feed me, shelter me, care for me you must be God. A cat says: You love me, feed me, shelter me, care for me I must be God."


The greatest crimes against God, says John Ortberg, are those against love: slander, gossip, carrying a grudge. Yet they fail to shock us. In the remainder of this chapter, the author takes us through the seven steps of conflict resolution outlined in Matthew's Gospel. Denouncing denial, which he says encourages resentment, he urges us to approach the person with whom we are in conflict.

This aroused a lively debate among Book Club members. There were those of us - myself included - who have ongoing conflict in our families. We agreed that all attempts on our part - to initiate discussion with the individuals in question - had led not to reconciliation but to a deepening conflict. Show him his fault, Jesus says, and John Ortberg points out how often we withhold the "last ten per-cent" of what we mean to say, and thus fail to communicate adequately.

There are no guarantees that discussion will lead to conflict resolution, however, and it's hard, in such situations, not to feed the anger that already exists. This person has wronged me, and now refuses to discuss the matter with a view to reconciliation, we think.

Key to conflict resolution, says the author, is to ask yourself: Why am I angry? And What do I want?


In the final section, the reader is shown the "spiritual surgery" that is necessary to achieve strong personal relationships. This is the amazing grace of God: the You owe; I pay philosophy that lies beneath salvation. Prompted by the book, members of the Book Club spoke of the nature of forgiveness, in their experience. It is not the same as excusing, or forgetting, or being reconciled. It does not seek vengeance, but neither does it by-pass justice. Nor does it require that the person being forgiven is either deserving or repentant.

As one member said, it is the act of one person - with or without the co-operation of the other - and it benefits, first and foremost, the person offering the forgiveness. It sets the one who has been wronged free from further hurt. It is liberating!

You might think that this is all there is to be said about conflict resolution, but in the final chapters, John Ortberg cites the need for confrontation and accountability; for inclusion; and for gratitude. But by this time, my real-time Book Club members were all talked out. John Ortberg's book, Everybody's Normal Till You Get To Know Them was, we all agreed, a page-turning read. It was, however, one that would require further discussion to do it justice.

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PERSONAL GROWTH & RELATIONSHIPS (inc. Personality Test & Drama Triangle)

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