Reviews of The Hidden Gifts of Helping
In The Hidden Gifts of Helping, Stephen Post... sums up his argument by quoting the Dalai Lama: ―Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. (p. 52). Post supports this claim with the help of rigorous scientific evidence, wisdom drawn from a variety of philosophical and religious traditions, and the recent personal experience of overcoming the trials of being uprooted through the strategy of generous giving to others. Although not sociological in its orientation or approach, sociologists interested in the relationship between altruism, social capital, and community will find much of interest in this popular work (recently a Wall Street Journal bestseller in philosophy).
—Matthew T. Lee, American Sociological Association
Stephen Post begins with his move after twenty years from Cleveland, Ohio. Now in his fifties, he is relocating with his family to Stony Brook, N.Y., after losing his job. Despite the upset and worry, rather than fall into self-pity, he knows the family must make a choice, “As my family and I made our transition to a new life in a new community, we realized that our choice was clear: giver’s glow or doubter’s darkness.”
“Life can be what we envision it to be, but it is not always what we expect.”
He speaks honestly from his own experience, taking along readers who can find similar feelings in their own life. Post goes beyond a personal sharing to substantiate his beliefs from his extensive professional research that blends seamlessly into the book, giving it increased credibility.
By helping others, he tells readers, we find many gifts: the giver’s glow; connection with the neediest; deep happiness; compassion and unlimited love; and ultimately, the gift of hope found not through seeking, but ultimately found nonetheless.
This book encourages that gift of hope, offering readers a new perspective on difficult times, and a way to discover the power they possess to get through these times, as well as to find more meaning every day of their lives.
—Angie Mangino, San Francisco Book Review
Post (preventive medicine; director, Ctr. for Medical Humanities, Stony Brook Univ.), president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, recommends, in his latest book, selflessness for selfish reasons—that is, he extols the health benefits of altruism not just for the receiver, but for the giver as well. Giving, claims Post, extends life span, relieves stress, improves mental health, and helps the heart. Post's work is a welcome antidote to the contracted thinking of a recession and should be welcomed by church groups and charitable organizations as well as Christian readers. Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.
—Library Journal January 2011
Post (When Good Things Happen to Good People), president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, pens a hopeful text for hopeless times. His own job loss forced him and his family to relocate in 2008, and he writes poignantly of what he’s personally lived through. No stranger to the emotional and spiritual difficulties that accompany any major life change, the author shares intimately how he put into practice the biblical principle of ‘giving unto others’ as he worked through his own grief, sorrow, and loss during the transition that uprooted his family. The lessons Post learned make up this practical resource that urges purposeful giving, even while feeling the stings of disappointment and hardship. Post’s work is more than a feel-good read. It’s today’s handbook for survival.
—Publishers Weekly January 2011
It has become clear that one’s attitudes and one’s actions contribute greatly to how one experiences difficult times, whether it is a cross-country move, a surgery, the death in one’s circle of friends/family, or a loss of a job (just to name a few possibilities). When our focus is totally placed on our own self, moving forward in life becomes very difficult. If, however, we change our focus outwardly then positive things can and often do happen. That doesn’t mean that positive thinking or even positive action will cure all that ails you, but it does make a difference in how we engage the world that we know, especially during difficult times. Conversations such as these must take into account the deep resources to be found in our faith traditions, most of which call on the individual to look outward to the needs of the other and the needs of the community, especially at those times when we’re tempted to close in on ourselves....
Post has written a very good book that needs to be read by a people who have become attracted by an ultimately destructive ideology of selfishness. Committing ourselves to the principle that “God helps those who help themselves” will not bring us happiness or hope, but committing ourselves to living lives rooted in “unlimited love” can transform our lives. This is the kind of self-help book, I can embrace – one that recognizes that we will find our happiness and fulfillment by being in relationship with others. It is also a principle that is deeply rooted in our faith traditions. This is, then, a book well worth reading.
—Pastor Bob Cornwall (more)
Stephen G. Post is professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. He is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, established in 2001 with support of the philanthropist John Templeton and the Templeton Foundation. Post is the author of several books including Why Good Things Happen to Good People.
In this new uplifting work, the author uses his family’s move from Ohio to their new home in New York as a way of illustrating the many ways in which transition, change, and mystery can signal a breakthrough to new possibilities. Post also sees the book as an exploration of the many benefits of helping others or, as he puts it, “a true companion and guide to the power of giving, forgiving, and compassion in hard times.”
After living in Cleveland for 20 years, the author found it hard to adjust to a new place and unfamiliar people: he is overwhelmed by a sense of displacement and loss. But in the long term he learns that the ties of affection, good neighbors, and love itself are what constitute happiness. Post recovers his equilibrium by helping others. In a survey by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, he discovers that people reap many rewards from doing good including greater longevity, lower rates of heart disease, improved mental and emotional health, and relief of stress and negative emotions. Volunteers who regularly serve others talk of a “helper’s high” that comes with moving beyond self and putting others first. Post quotes John Templeton: “Every act of helping is a way of saying yes to life.”
The challenge of service is to discover your hidden gift and then to give to those who need it most. It could be serving food to the homeless, or supporting a shelter for abused women, or regularly visiting shut-ins. Post believes that happiness arises from four elements that create a spiritual foundation: loving others, the presence of moral integrity, the ability to enjoy thankful simplicity, and staying true to your higher purpose. The author concludes with a strong affirmation of the art of hanging on to hope in these hard times:
“Hope is not simply the capacity to be optimistic; it is so much bigger than that. Hope leads us into the future with a deep trust that something good will come. It helps us keep going when we stumble, and gives us a vision to guide us in the face of adversity.”
—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, spiritualityandpractice.com