19 August 2015

Book Review: Becoming Human

Becoming Human (1998)  is a short book and international bestseller by Jean Vanier, "the founder of L'Arche, an international network of communities for people with intellectual disabilities." The book consists of five chapters entitled: loneliness, belonging, from exclusion to inclusion: a path of healing, the path to freedom, and forgiveness.

There is much to commend about this book. It is essentially a manifesto on what true humanity looks like, a humanity that values all people, seeks good for others, and lives to serve, love, and forgive. In this book, Vanier recognizes the essential importance of attachment, though I am not sure he ever actually used that word. Rather, he writes things like, "deep inner healing comes about mainly when people feel loved, when they have a sense of belonging." He pushes back gently on the fallen tendency to separate and isolate, whether as individuals or as groups. When we focus primarily on our differences from other people, we fail to acknowledge our common brokenness and need for love.

As with most books, there are things I would quibble with him about. Although I strongly agree with his view that all humanity shares a common brokenness and need to belong, there are times when intergroup differences are not only real, but important.  I would characterize it as a minimization (bordering on an absence) of objective truth as a way to promote love. I think in this regard, caution is necessary.

On the whole, however, I thought this was a wise, humble book about the importance of love, relationships, and forgiveness.

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