For the Bookshelf: The Gift of the Shiksa

For the Bookshelf: The Gift of the Shiksa

By Margaret J. Marcuson

Let me commend to you the latest of Edwin Friedman’s writings to be reissued by Church Publishing, The Myth of the Shiksa. The book includes a number of other essays beyond the title one, including, “An Interview with the First Family Counselor,” “Secrets and Systems,” and “Metaphors of Salvation,” and a fascinating foreword by Friedman’s daughter, Shira Friedman Bogart, “Growing up Friedman.”

Many of the chapters were published as articles during Friedman’s lifetime, but they have not been collected in book form before. They show Friedman’s characteristic wit, boldness, and ability to see things at a tangent. Several of them are written from his perspective as a therapist. But church leaders so often work with families that his perspective is radical but tremendously valuable, as in the interview, “Empathy Defeats Therapy.” This is the one piece new to me. I marked this comment as being particularly relevant to clergy: “When members of the helping professions do not have personal goals for their lives—I mean aside from rescuing or helping others—they lose perspective on their clients, and then they can’t distinguish their empathy from their anxiety.” (p. 120)

Worth the price of the book alone is “Mischief, Mystery, and Paradox: Bowen Theory and Therapy.” This essay was originally published in The New Handbook of Family Therapy . It’s a terrific summary of Bowen Family Systems Theory. Whether you still feel like you’re struggling to grasp the theory, or you’ve been working with it for decades, you’ll find the essay a valuable resource.

My favorite quote from the book, which I used in my workshop presentation this spring, is this one: “The average person will resist efforts to will them by willing the willer with equal determination to stop willing, or by applying their own will to themselves. In a way that frustrates the will of the willer.” (p. 18). As a leader I find that both sobering and comforting.
Get this book, and look for a third Friedman book from Church Publishing, What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? which includes additional unpublished essays and diary entries.

Guest blogger Margaret Marcuson works with clergy who want to be better leaders and churches who want to develop their ministries. She has been on the faculty of the Leadership in Ministry Workshops since 1999. She is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry (Church Publishing, 2009).

Registration is now open for the Leadership in Ministry Workshops at the Center for Lifelong Learning. Check the website for information or to register.

This review was originally published in the Leadership In Ministry Newsletter (Summer 2008).

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