Living a Life That Matters [NOOK Book]

Overview

Most of us need to feel that we matter in some way; perhaps this explains the high value placed on titles, corner offices, and even fleeting celebrity. But most of us also need to feel that we are good people. In this luminous yet practical book of spiritual advice, Harold Kushner bridges the gap between these seemingly irreconcilable needs, showing us how even our smallest daily actions can become stepping stones toward integrity.

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Living a Life That Matters

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Overview

Most of us need to feel that we matter in some way; perhaps this explains the high value placed on titles, corner offices, and even fleeting celebrity. But most of us also need to feel that we are good people. In this luminous yet practical book of spiritual advice, Harold Kushner bridges the gap between these seemingly irreconcilable needs, showing us how even our smallest daily actions can become stepping stones toward integrity.

Drawing on the stories of his own congregants, on literature, current events and, above all, on the Biblical story of Jacob, the worldly trickster who evolves into a man of God --Kushner addresses some of the most persistent dilemmas of the human condition: Why do decent people so often violate their moral standards? How can we pursue justice without giving in to the lure of revenge? How can we turn our relationships with family and friends into genuine sources of meaning? Persuasive and sympathetic, filled with humanity and warmth, Living a Life That Matters is a deeply rewarding book.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Persuasive and sympathetic, anecdotal and commonsensical, Living a Life That Matters inspires and uplifts.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Harold Kushner gets down to the nitty-gritty of life. “We need to know that we matter to the world,” he points out flatly. “At the same time, we need to be assured that we are good people.” In this book, Kushner pushes us to fulfill these two basic human needs in one lifetime: to do well by doing good. He leads us through the thorny issues of self-realization, justice, personal integrity, and relationships in a quest to discover what really matters. And in the end, he shows us what it is to live from the heart -- to feel oriented, rich, and purposeful.

Kushner, rabbi laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and bestselling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, begins his quest by directing us to value struggle. By sharing with us the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, Kushner explains what we gain from our attempts at self-realization, in which we fight our own impulses and change our lives. “There are times when we feel that split inside us, part of us wanting to take the easy way out even as another part of us insists on the more demanding route.... It hurts to be defeated by conscience, to feel compelled to take the more demanding high road, to resist temptation, to apologize. But,” Kushner points out, “I suspect it hurts more to keep winning out over conscience.” What we must value, he insists, is not whether we make the right decisions, but whether we grow morally through the process. “When the struggle is over,” Kushner counsels, “we will, like Jacob, be bruised and limping. But...we will be at peace with ourselves in a way we never were before.”

Kushner goes on to revalue forgiveness. Drawing on the story of Joseph, along with contemporary books and films, he focuses, again, on what’s important. “When we thirst for revenge, it isn’t really revenge we are after,” he points out. “We are looking to reclaim a sense of power and dignity that was stolen from us.” Instead of seeking to punish, Kushner suggests, we can get what we need by behaving with the grace we wish others had. “Forgiveness,” Kushner points out, “is a favor we do ourselves.” Kushner goes on to apply his steady wisdom to the issues of personal integrity and interpersonal relationships -- and always, he reorients us to what’s truly important.

In this book, Kushner grapples with the central issues of our lives; his arguments are penetrating, and his advice gentle. Ultimately, he helps us to focus our lives not on winning the argument at hand but on becoming kinder, more forgiving, and steadier of heart. He helps us find out, quietly, what matters. (Jesse Gale)

Mitch Albom
Living a Life That Matters is a wonderful, much-needed primer on the truly important things in life. Many thanks to Harold Kushner for reminding us what we should never forget: that success is not in the bulk of your wallet, but in the weight of your character.
Thomas Moore
Rabbi Kushner's new book is full of the great stories and subtle wisdom that makes him a genuine spiritual leader for us all in a time of considerable confusion. He blends limitless compassion with sharp analysis to offer a way toward integrity. This is a book you don't want to put down or allow to be too far from you in times of crisis.
From The Critics
The latest serving of spiritual nourishment by the author of the 1981 bestseller When Bad Things Happen to Good People concerns a common dilemma: how getting what we want in life seems so often to require compromising our values and integrity. Rabbi Kushner makes the inspiring case that living up to our moral ideals will make us both successful and complete. Kushner's touchstone for this lesson is the Biblical story of Jacob. As a young man, Jacob used cunning and guile to achieve his worldly aims; then, in the strange episode that is the turning point of his life, he wrestles all night with an unseen presence—call it God, an angel or, as Kushner sees it, his own conscience. Jacob ends up bruised and battered, but he also emerges an upright person who goes on to do the right thing, not the easy thing. The moral: Knowing who we have been does not matter as much as knowing what kind of person we aspire to become.
—Eric Wargo

Publishers Weekly
Rabbi Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, etc.) outlines a common human struggle between the need to feel successful and the need to think of oneself as a good person. Indeed, he relates, the biblical Jacob wrestled with the impulse to succeed through cleverness and fraud, and "to become someone exemplary." While the subtitle might be challenged can't success be more a matter of dedication than ruthlessness? Kushner's wide-ranging, occasionally meandering book fortunately focuses more on the basic question of a meaningful life. Citing examples from both contemporary life and the Bible, he observes that revenge and retribution cannot heal victims, whereas the new trend toward restorative justice (which works "toward the... restoration of the victim" and holds "the offender accountable") might do so. Kushner sees Isaac Bashevis Singer's character Gimpel the Fool as achieving the utmost integrity because he is "the same person all the time." Love and friendship, Kushner writes, not only signify bonds between people, but help bring God into a selfish world. To avoid feeling insignificant, he urges readers to help someone needy and to think not of themselves but of the next generation. He concludes with words that are more comforting than challenging: simply "[b]y being good people" doing honest work, helping a neighbor, delighting a child "we have an impact on the world." (Sept. 15) Forecast: With a 250,000-copy first printing; a Today Show appearance; selection by BOMC, Literary Guild, Traditions and QPB; first serial rights bought by Family Circle and Parade; and simultaneous audio and large-print editions, this will be another Kushner juggernaut. Copyright 2001 CahnersBusiness Information.
Library Journal
Kushner, rabbi laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, MA, addresses the inner question that many readers yearn to have answered: How do I know my life and my choices mean something? He suggests that the path to a truly successful and significant life lies in generosity, friendship, family, sacrifice, and God's forgiving nature. Readers familiar with his When Bad Things Happen to Good People or How Good Do We Have To Be? will be gratified at the further anecdotal and persuasive discussion found here. Kushner offers examples from literature and contemporary history that allow the reader to join the discussion almost effortlessly. His easy-reading, down-home style and commonsensical approach are sure to attract many. Highly recommended for public libraries and essential for collections seeking to offer contemporary views of the sociology and psychology of humanity.Leroy Hommerding, Fort Myers Beach Lib. Dist., FL Copyright 2001, Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“A valuable companion . . . a set of guideposts for living a useful and fulfilled life, no matter what the future holds.” --The Boston Globe

“A wonderful, much-needed primer on the truly important things in life. Many thanks to Harold Kushner for reminding us what we should never forget.” --Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays With Morrie

“Full ofÉgreat stories and subtle wisdom....This is a book you don’t want to put down or allow to be too far from you in times of crisis.” --Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400077694
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/16/2003
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 135,298
  • File size: 202 KB

Meet the Author

Harold S. Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, where he lives. His books include When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Who Needs God, and How Good Do We Have to Be?


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Most of us need to feel that we matter in some way; perhaps this explains the high value placed on titles, corner offices, and even fleeting celebrity. But most of us also need to feel that we are good people. In this luminous yet practical book of spiritual advice, Harold Kushner bridges the gap between these seemingly irreconcilable needs, showing us how even our smallest daily actions can become stepping stones toward integrity.

Drawing on the stories of his own congregants, on literature, current events and, above all, on the Biblical story of Jacob, the worldly trickster who evolves into a man of God —Kushner addresses some of the most persistent dilemmas of the human condition: Why do decent people so often violate their moral standards? How can we pursue justice without giving in to the lure of revenge? How can we turn our relationships with family and friends into genuine sources of meaning? Persuasive and sympathetic, filled with humanity and warmth, Living a Life That Matters is a deeply rewarding book.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

First Words vii
1 The Two Voices of God 3
2 How to Win by Losing 23
3 What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be? 49
4 Wild Justice: The Seductive Pleasure of Getting Even 85
5 Shalom: The Quest for Integrity 122
6 Family and Friends: We Are Who We Love 154
7 Best Actor in a Supporting Role 179
8 Why We Matter to the World 20
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Reading Group Guide

1. CHAPTER 1

Page 5: Kushner quotes one of his teachers as saying, “When I was young, I admired clever people. As I grew old, I came to admire kind people.” How does that statement relate to the “two styles of morality” discussed on pages 20–21? Do you think most people go through a similar development? What does that say about what we would like to be admired for?

Page 9: “Mother love says: Nothing you ever do or fail to do will make me stop loving you. Father love says: I will love you if you earn my love and respect, if you get good grades, if you make the team. [The psychoanalyst and author Erich] Fromm insists that every one of us needs to experience both kinds of loving.” Do you agree with Fromm and Kushner that “father love” is good and necessary, or do you find it harsh and conditional? Do we need to experience both kinds of love to feel complete?

2. CHAPTER 2

Pages 28–29: “At the end of the struggle, Jacob is injured and limping, but the Bible nonetheless describes him as shalem, a Hebrew word with connotations of wholeness, integrity, being at peace with oneself. . . . In a sense, Jacob has won by losing.” Can you think of other circumstances in which a person can win by losing? A conflict between husband and wife? Between parent and adolescent? Between neighbors? Between nations?

3. Chapter 3

Pages 51–55: Do you agree with Kushner’s assertion that we cannot be complete people and do good things without a strong streak of selfishness? Does that make you feel differently about selfish things you might have done?

Pages 56–57: How would you answer the questions Kushner put to his teenage students about stealing from a vending machine?

4. Chapter 4

Page 62: “I define revenge as punishment in the name of justice, tarnished by taking pleasure in hurting the person being punished.” In a subsequent interview, Kushner has refined the definition further: Justice is hurting someone who deserves to be hurt; revenge is hurting someone because it makes us feel better to hurt him. Do you agree with that definition, and if so, is revenge ever morally justifiable? What other ways of “making you feel better” might be alternatives to vengeance?

5. Chapter 5

Page 93: “How can you be sure that it is God’s voice and not your own wishful thinking? Of the many voices that echo in our minds, how do we recognize the authentic voice of God?” Over the course of centuries and in recent history, we have seen people do terrible things in the belief that they were carrying out the will of God. On what basis do we declare them tragically misguided while insisting that the voice we follow is God’s true message?

Pages 101–5: Is Isaac Bashevis Singer’s character Gimpel the Fool to be envied or pitied?

6. Chapter 6

Pages 116: What do you get out of friendship that you don’t find in family or work?

7. Chapter 7

Pages 139–40: “Communal standards and communal pressure, the combined force of good people banding together, will do more to curb wrong behavior than either sermons or threats of jail.” Do you agree? What are some of the ways in which a person’s character and values might be shaped by his or her living in one community rather than another? How does this apply to young people leaving for college?

8. Chapter 8

• Has Living a Life That Matters affected your perspective on life? How has this book encouraged you to see things differently? In one sentence, what would you like to be your personal legacy?

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Customer Reviews

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( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2006

    Two words...How empowering!

    I think every other page in the book is creased for a different quote that I found helpful. If you are looking for some kind of direction in your life, this book is the perfect start. You do not even have to be religious to appreciate the book, just open-minded.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2004

    ROBCIS, Enterprises

    This is a powerful book. A look at the title would lead one to believe it is another one of those self-help tomes, but to the contrary. It is a book about self-exploration and reflection. The author uses the life of Jacob, the bible figure in the book of Gensis, as part of his backdrop in a discussion of life, love, trials, struggles, friendship, and our imprint on family, friends, society and the universe at large. I particularly like how he tied the story of Jacob and his struggle with the angel, with our own inner struggles, our quest to understand life itself, our relationship with others, and most importantly the connection with God. This is a worthwhile read. There is no doubt that as you journey through this book you will begin to conduct a self-inventory and assess who you are, and the legacy you wish to leave behind.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012

    Finished

    Awsome:)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Living a Life That Matters

    This is an excellent book. I would recommend it to others.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2002

    A must read!!!!!!

    this is a wonderful book to read. The use of biblical figures to explain the message Kushner tries to relay to his readers is nothing short of brilliant. i would highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2001

    The Personal and Social Significance of Doing Good

    Rabbi Kushner has woven a fascinating series of essays together to establish a new way to think about the meaningfulness of your life choices. Spiritually, he finds many people torn between the desire to achieve significance and the call of the consciences. Like the young Jacob, some will obtain their desires by cutting corners that offend their consciences. Drawing on his many years as a rabbi, he shares what he has learned at many death beds. Few people are concerned about dying. Those who have done good things in their lives are almost always at peace. Those who regret the timing of their deaths wish for a little more time, so that they might yet leave some marks of goodness behind them. From that perspective, he gently points out that we can achieve both the significance and the clear conscience that we crave by focusing our attention on have positive influences on others in supporting roles as family member, friend, and occasional helping hand to strangers. The move, It¿s a Wonderful Life, is used as an example. The Jimmy Stewart character doesn¿t realize how all the little things he did affected so many lives, which in turn affected so many other lives. We, too, tend to be blind to the potential influence we have. The book has a kindness and gentleness that make its message welcome and warming. ¿I believe in you. I believe that you have the ability to do great things, things that will change the world for the better.¿ I share that belief and am delighted that Rabbi Kushner has written this book. In chapter one, the subject is the two voices of God. This essay considers the models of competition with others and our heart-felt desire to share compassion, and how the two often operate at odds with one another in young people. He ascribes the competition to a desire for significance, that many psychologists would echo as a deep human need. In chapter two, the story of Jacob¿s transformation from trickster to being firmly founded in God¿s will is featured. I especially liked the way that the pain of winning by trickery and being tricked in turn by Laban probably affected how Jacob felt about himself. In chapter three, you are encouraged to decide what kind of person you want to be. Rather than ask all to seek perfection in sainthood, he argues for a mixture of human competitiveness and compassion that allows us to strive and to care. This chapter includes interesting references to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and an episode of the original Star Trek series in which Kirk is divided into a good and a bad version by a transporter problem. In chapter four, there is an interesting discussion of the psychological impacts of justice from the point of view of those who are harmed. The experience of South Africa¿s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is recounted along with a new type of trial in the United States where attempts are made to improve how the victims and their families feel. In chapter five, you will learn about how wholeness (personal integrity) can be achieved. The primary example is that of Mr. Aaron Feuerstein, CEO of Malden Mills, who rebuilt his factory after a disastrous fire while keeping his employees on full salary for the first three months. In chapter six, the key concept is that God¿s presence is manifested on Earth in our relations with those we love, both family and friends. Chapter seven explores the notion of how supporting roles have big impacts too. Most of us can have these roles. If we were movie actors, we could even get an Academy award for doing this well. Chapter eight is a thoughtful discussion of our influence on other people. I particularly liked the reference to The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and how all those who died had recently learned how to love. Young people often write to me to find out the theme of that book, and don¿t understand it even after lots of hints about what those who died had in common. Perhaps you have to

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    Posted August 26, 2011

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