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Donald Miller is probably best known for his book Blue Like Jazz. I read it shortly after I became a Christian and instantly related to his story of being raised in the church and having to discover what I really believed for myself.
So when the opportunity to review his new book Scary Close presented itself, I jumped at it.
This book is somewhat of a departure from his previous memoirs and is closer to a self-help book than an autobiography. The tag line is “dropping the act and finding true intimacy.”
The book mostly chronicles Miller’s journey as he pursues his now-wife, who was utterly unimpressed with the act he used to woo his conquests. This led him on a journey of self-discovery that eventually landed him at a counseling facility where a therapist helped him to understand that the facade he was portraying was that of a scared child. His need to “perform” was fueled by insecurity and fear that was more deeply-rooted than even he realized.
Somewhere along the line I think many of us buy into the lie that we only matter if … We only matter if we are strong or smart or attractive or whatever.
This was definitely an easy read, as all of Miller’s books are very conversational. I don’t usually mark in my books in case I want to pass them along, but I found myself highlighting passage after passage because I could relate SO MUCH to his struggle to really have authentic, intimate friendships and relationships.
The last thing I learned about relationships by swimming in the pond was there are more liefguards than sharks. What I mean is, for the most part, other people aren’t out to get us.
The book starts with the insecurities that make us feel like we need to perform in relationships, why we choose the people we do, and the kind of relationships that we should be seeking out.
In one chapter, he talks about manipulators in relationships. In some ways, I am a manipulator. And in some ways, some of the people in my life are manipulators. He quotes his friend Ben,
“Don, I’ve learned that there are givers and takers in this life. I’ve slowly let the takers go and I’ve had it for the better. God bless them, when they learn to play by the rules they are welcomed back, but my heart is worth protecting.”
That quote was very pertinent to me because over the past couple of years my inner circle has changed dramatically. I put up with a lot of “white lies” in friendships; people putting on their own performance to make their life seem a little better, or more fulfilling than it actually was. I have dealt with people who only call me when they want something, or are bored. Initially, I felt a twinge of guilt at ending these relationships with close, long-time friends. In the book, Miller points out that you are likely to emulate those in your inner circle, so choose people who are healthy and will encourage you towards healthy relationships. Suddenly I don’t feel guilty for letting those people go, I feel relieved.
There is far too much ‘meat’ in the book for me to give justice to all of the passages I highlighted or stories that made me stop and think. The book is peppered with stories about Miller’s friends, almost to the point of obnoxious name-dropping, but thankfully it does not overwhelm the core context. I felt like some of the mentions were a little antithetical to the premise behind the book of dropping the act. Nonetheless, the book managed to entertain and inspire me to be better and do better in my own relationships.
Applause is a quick fix. And love is an aquired taste.
If you are already a Donald Miller fan this book is a must-read, and definitely ranks as one of his best even if it is a departure from his typical style. Have you already read it? I would love to know what you thought. If not, pick up a copy here.
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