What’s Wrong with Self-Help Books?

Our BSF lecture last week insinuated there was something wrong with self-help books.  I immediately bristled.

As some of you know, I’m working on myself, trying to grow and fix some of “me”, smooth out the rough edges and I have chosen to do this through God’s word, prayer, and books.  Most of these books are self-help books.

The argument was made, “People look to themselves rather than God when they read these books.”  I think this is a valid argument if you do indeed rely on self-help books only instead of God.

But self-help books combined with God is a powerful tool.  I read books and I get ah-ha moments.

God speaks through people.  People write books (like myself).  And I believe God helps me write and He uses me to convey His message.  So why wouldn’t He help others?  Why wouldn’t God give us the gift of books through others to know Him better?  It sounds a lot like what the Bible is, doesn’t it?  Others words inspired by God and a chronicle of Jesus’s life–words written down so we can know Him.

Most of the books I read have God as a critical component in it.  It’s psychological advice accompanied by a strong message of faith and prayer.  It’s powerful.  It gives you ideas you normally wouldn’t see (I haven’t studied psychology) so you can become more like Jesus.

I believe God knows just what to put in my hands at just the right time.  Besides His word, books that teach life lessons that you can apply are powerful.  They challenge me to think, to analyze, to delve into my past, to see things through others’ eyes, to see me through others’ eyes.  They tell me things people would never tell me.

I agree self-reliance can lead to a powerful fall.  But I see nothing wrong with the desire to improve yourself and looking at other places in addition to the Bible and prayer.

Your thoughts?

14 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Self-Help Books?

  1. I have a friend who’s read many books about God and many self-help books; he attends divorce recoverty and Celebrate Recovery programs. None of this is a bad thing. However, he’s often said he doesn’t really know anything about the Bible. He has a somewhat skewed idea of who God is and doesn’t really know Jesus.

    As you said, when a person depends solely or mainly upon self-help books (just look at the term for them! LOL), they are in trouble. So many times, I’ve “known” exactly what I need to improve or grow in. However, God had a different idea. I’m a mess! LOL I need Monday morning BSF training, Tuesday night BSF, Thursday night “lite” Bible study, Sunday morning service and Bible discussion group just to make it through the week. In fact, I’m hoping to add a real-life group at my church for one of the remaining nights. If I’m not in the Word all the time, I’m a wreck.

    With the time in the Word and time spent with strong Christians from church, I’m not having much time for other reading. I’m finding, though, that God is more and more speaking to me through strangest things. LOL For example, I’m picking up dead limbs fallen from one of my trees and God tells me that the tree is smart enough to drop its dead parts; I know I need to “prune” before God makes the cut. Of course, it’s still His doing because He showed me the need. God even once had a pick-up truck with a large sign-Don’t Do It!–drive by me during a decision making time!

    I am just so self-reliant as it is, willful. I can read books about scriptural principles, but I can’t read the standard self-help book written by a nonChristian. I wish I were stronger!

    I guess the test point is whether we see God working in our lives through a media or whether we’re the one actually in control. Tough line! 🙂

    By the way, I saw my friend open a Bible in church Sunday when the minister read from scripture! Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

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  2. i sense your frustration as you try so hard in everything you do….you are an inspiration to others so once again try not to be so hard on yourself…i receive a daily email online which i share with you….go to the internet and put in Meet Me In The Meadow…then sign up to receive it daily…there is a lot of peace through this site…..

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  3. Good thoughts. I like to think of it like this:
    I live on Texas. Although I am not Texan, I like the conservative values that Texans believe in. Now, you’ d have to be living under a rock if you didn’t know that Texans are “gun-rights” activists. So if a family chooses to teach their children to use guns in a safe manner, then, as a concerned friend, I should be concerned with the maturity of the persons and the manner they learn. I would only do this when I have a trusting relationship with the people involved.
    So it also is with self-help books. These books, when they direct people to God and His word, can be immensely helpful. If these books only serve the author’s interest, then it can be dangerous–like allowing some random person to teach your child about guns. Maybe the “gun” illustration wasn’t the best example, but I hope you understand my point.
    In all things, God works for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

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  4. Don’t be so hard on yourself…when you get right down to it, the Bible is also a self-help book…the best one of all, but still a self-help book!!!

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  5. I couldn’t agree with you more. I agree that God works in many ways and if we seek guidance in books in addition to seeking help through prayer and His word then we can become even better messengers of His word and work His will in this life. I am a proud member of Alcoholics Anonymous which is a faith based program of recovery. If I hadn’t sought help through that group I would still be a drug addict and alcoholic. I wasn’t in a place to listen to God when I first got sober but now I actively read His word daily and speak His truths often but had I not sought out help through the Big Book I would never have become a messenger for God.

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  6. There is nothing wrong with self-help book, therapists, medication, doctors or plumbers. All those people, their books and tools play a role in God’s plan too. God has bestowed gifts on people in order to help one another. There is no commandment to be self-sufficient. Only to trust in God and make use of what is provided to us. The only prohibition I read in the Bible are those against fortune-tellers and their ilk.
    Good luck and enjoy the book.

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  7. I would enjoying knowing some of the books you’ve enjoyed. I like self help books combined with God too. I enjoy the authors Matthew Kelly, Joyce Meyer, and Ron Mehl.

    Thanks for blogging!

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  8. I agree with you. If it hadn’t been for self help books in the Christian section, I would not be where I am today. I have come a long way in my walk with God. They have helped me to be more assertive as a women of God and to mentor to other women that are going through what I have in my life. Thank God for the people that write these Christian Books.

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  9. Since I’ve seen counselors, psychiatrists, etc for 36 years and at the same time immersing myself in God’s word, the statement about self-help books that was made in our BSF group did not sit well with me either. I am mature enough to know that the Bible comes first, but self-help books can help me see Bible verses and passages that brought comfort to the writer in her particular life situation.

    It struck me recently that even the BSF handouts and their “notes”, along with the lectures could also be viewed in the same “self-help” light. The program is highly structured by a group of individuals in San Antonio, TX. I began to view this program in a negative light and was complaining to my sister about a class incident that left me in tears.

    My sister said that we are all human, even the people running BSF and things happen and we each have our own views, but anything that can lead you to study God’s word is a good thing.

    With that in mind, I determine that self-help books, counselors, and structured BSF handouts and lectures all belong in the same category. They lead us to the Bible and cause us to study God’s word, so that makes them each good in their own way.

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    1. I believe that the leaders of BSF strive to be led by the Holy Spirit in their decisions. However, all are human; mistakes can be made and feelings can be hurt. We’re all still in the process of having transformed minds in the likeness of Christ!

      I think the term “self-help” can be misleading. A secular book that tells us that The Individual can “fix” his life by doing A-B-C is misleading. A book that leads the reader to follow principles of the Bible is not really a self-help book; it’s simply a secondary source. All secondary sources should be judged against the primary source for validity (this is true by any research standard, scriptural or secular).

      A Christian counselor and a secular counselor will guide from different standards. Even someone who is billed as a Christian counselor might not always be grounded in faith.

      A Christian needs to listen carefully to sermons in his or her church and–again–weigh words said against the Word.

      We are to be discerning readers and listeners, waiting on the Holy Spirit and immersed in the Word. Otherwise, we will not recognize truth anywhere.

      A final thought concerning BSF. When you have an international organization, it’s necessary to have fairly strict standards. Otherwise, each group would end up being led differently; without consistency and shared values/standards, some groups could move very far from the Word. Think about franchise businesses which share a name though each is owned by a different person; each is visited and judged to determine that it’s meeting common standards. If one isn’t, the name is removed.

      We also need to remember that Jesus often offended people. Jesus still offends many people. When a Christian offends us, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit to decide whether the feeling of being offended came from that person’s human nature making a mistake or whether the person was speaking truth which hurt us. I know I need to do this much more often! Eternal truth is more important than my feelings. (Even saying that hurt me a little!) 🙂

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  10. Unfortunately many self help books are written on somebodies own experiences and unfortunately what works for one person does not always work for another. It is for people to discover their own path and not to attempt to follow in the footsteps of somebody else.

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