Online Book Club: Everybody's Normal - Part Two: The Games That People Play

Posted at 17:26pm on 16th December 2010

John Ortbergs book, Everybodys Normal Till You Get To Know Them provoked more discussion in the Book Club I lead than any other book weve read. Consequently, Ive split the discussion summary into three parts. Your comments are welcomed whether or not youve read the book. If you have views on the topics raised, wed love to hear from you.

In Part One, we looked at community and conflict resolution, loneliness and personal growth, and relationship psychology. The discussion on what Ortberg calls mat management, ended with the conclusion that disclosure should never be coerced. God allowed Adam the choice to hide, and so should we.


In fact, simply revealing our weaknesses is not enough to make us whole, says Ortberg. What we need is healing, forgiveness and grace. The irony is that though we wear masks ourselves, we are drawn to people with unveiled faces.

Yet the games that people play involve hiding behind masks. Pointing out that there is no healing in hiding, the author urges upon us the benefits of confessing our needs to one another, be they physical or spiritual.


This provoked a good deal of discussion among Book Club members. We recalled an occasion when a young woman, the single mother of several children by different fathers, stood before our church and confessed her weakness to the entire congregation. Others spoke of similar incidents in other situations. We all owned up to a sense of great discomfort at having witnessed these revelations en masse.

The sad truth is that though God may forgive and forget the sins that we confess to him as far as the East is from the West family and friends may find themselves less well equipped to do so. Is it, we pondered, always kind to confess? Might our confession simply be a way of unburdening ourselves, but in such a manner that it becomes the burden of a loved one?

As an example, I cited my husband. He has said, categorically, that he has no wish to read books or articles Ive written, in which I have shared personal experiences prior to having met him. To his mind, God has dealt with my past, and the person he fell in love with was a new creation. I have to agree. Why should I put the man I love through the pain of imagining me with someone other than himself?


But what of persistent guilt? Book Club members felt that this was a case for confessing to a disinterested party. There was a time, I admitted, when although I had prayed for forgiveness I continued to be racked with guilt. A close friend put me to rights.

Your wrongdoing has been nailed to the cross, she said, but guilt makes you want to keep taking it down to see if its dead.

Whats the point of that? she continued. Its a bit like picking a scab to see if it will still bleed!

It was a turning point for me! Perfectionist that I am, it made me realise that if I couldnt forgive myself, I was as good as saying that my standards were higher than Gods.


Whilst in confession mode, we had to admit to being among the stone-throwers that Ortberg homes in on in chapter six. You and I were made to be in the life-saving business, he writes. And then proceeds to tell the story of the woman whom Jesus saved from being stoned for adultery, and asks: Have you ever held a stone in your hand?

Its an arresting question! For who, among us, could truly respond with a negative? I had to admit to having been in mental stone throwing mode when confronted with a woman in the waiting room of the doctors surgery. For one thing she was vast! And secondly, she was on the phone whilst with her young son. All my stone throwing instincts came to the forefront of my mind.

Wrongly, as it turned out. Because, having made her call, she put her phone away and spent a delightful half hour engaging with her four year-old, encouraging him to develop his linguistic skills (he could count to ten in three languages) and quietly disciplining him if he stepped out of line.

With shame, I read Ortbergs words: Why do churches produce so many stone-throwers?

Ah, said the Book Club members, but theres a great difference between forming a judgement and being judgemental.

And theyre right. We live in an era of libertarianism, when the only aspect of life to which were intolerant, is intolerance! Yet, as the author of Everybodys Normal Till You Get To Know Them points out, accepting a person is not the same thing as approving of all of their behaviour. Jesus didnt do so. And neither should we.

Part One of Online Book Club: Everybodys Normal Till You Get To Know Them

FINAL PART of this discussion will follow in a few days.







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

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Author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies offers resources to inform, inspire and encourage.� She is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.� Book her here for your event.


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