There have been several times in my life when particular books came along at just the right time, and that was defiinitely the case with this one. Through it, I have been reminded that every human being is to be valued, regardless of social or economic status, beauty, intellectual abilities, eloquence, artistic abilities... and that each person is created in the image of God.
Vanier takes the reader down a path of greater understanding of the lonliness we expereince as humans and the pain such lonliness causes. He then highlights the importance of belonging to a community of "others", while also drawing attention to the fact that communities can also be dangerous if they become exclusive.
He then focuses on the power of healing that comes from open, honest relationships. He says, "When we are in communion with another, we become open and vulnerable to them. we reveal our needs and our weaknesses to each other".
His words challenged me to consider what it really means to be human, when he said, "We tend to reduce being human to acquiring knowledge, power, and social status"... instead of realizing that it is "love that reorients us from our self-centeredness, revelaing to us and to others the basic beauty of humanity, empowering us to grow".
Finally, Vanier encourages the reader to pursue forgiveness, which removes barriers we put up to protect us from being hurt in relationships again (which is inevitable). On forgiveness, Vanier says, "To forgive is... the greatest of gifts, because it is a gift of liberation from all the hurts of the past, hurts that prevent us from living fully and loving others".
I've been encouraged by the words of this book to seek greater freedom in my life from expectations of power, success, control and a self-centered life (even though I believe the challenge to fight these things is a lifelong pursuit), and to seek to be open and honest in relationshps with a community that is inclusive, and to fogive and release others to live free of unforgiveness.
"To be free is to put justice, truth, and service to others over and above our own personal gain or our need for recognition, power, honor, and success. When we cling to personal power and success, when we are frightened of losing social status, then we are in some way denying our humanity, we become slaves to our own needs. We are not free."