By Barbara Roberts, author of Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion
Simon's previous two books were about serious character disturbance and people with toxic or dangerous personalities. In contrast, The Judas Syndrome is about common and garden character deficiency and character development, and the relatively 'good' people whose actions cause pain and suffering.
Simon uses his extensive counseling experience to shed light on how common character deficiencies often accompany a shallow or absent faith. He gives many case studies (composites from his counseling practice) to illustrate how people can cause pain and chronic difficulties for themselves and for others by their shortcomings, misdeeds and character deficiencies. These case studies show how the work of character development -- or the re-orientation of a deficient character and a life gone askew -- can be greatly helped by a sincere faith in a higher power and persistent efforts to embody the virtues and values of one's faith.
As I read the cases studies I found myself reflecting on many people I have encountered in my life, people who are not narcissists or aggressively evil but who nevertheless cause pain and messes to others and themselves. Simon is nuanced and mature in his discussion of cause and effect regarding the pain in people's lives. He is always very clear about personal responsibility and he walks that fine line between empathy for pain and calling us to all make responsible choices in our lives.
This is Simon's first book in which he openly avers his Christian faith and points to the need for spiritual rebirth and the cultivation of Christian virtues in character development. But this is not your typical book about Christian living or Christian counseling with sound-bite quotes from the Bible and lists of dos and don'ts regarding sin and godly conduct.
Simon is not promoting simplistic easy-believism. Rather, he is talking about how real faith goes hand in hand with the arduous work of character development. Precisely because character development is arduous work, it often is difficult to achieve without trust in and reliance upon a higher power. For Simon, that is the God of the Bible, but he does not ram this down his readers' throats, he alludes to it gently and invitationally, while recognizing that some readers may have faith in a higher power without calling themselves Christians.
As a Christian myself, I was not offended by Simon's approach to matters of faith. I can see why Simon sometimes uses the phrase 'higher power' to make his work accessible to a wider audience than just Christians and I see nothing wrong in this approach; his previous two books have benefited many people and his audience is by no means restricted to Christians.
Given his professional standing and previous written works, Simon has been brave to 'out' himself as a Christian -- Christians tend to be perceived as foolish by the non-Christian community. But The Judas Syndrome is a book of wisdom, not sappy Christian-ese aphorisms or cookie cutter Christian moralism. This book will help readers to recognize character defects in themselves and others, and it may give you some ideas about how to firmly but kindly confront the kinds of people who are shallow in faith and deficient in character without being truly toxic individuals.
There is the same heartwarming ethical concern for the well-being of people and society that I have found George Simon's previous books. I'll end with this quote from The Judas Syndrome (p 116), which for me sums up the book:
"As a Christian and a therapist, I have become convinced of the power of faith and honest self-reckoning to transform people's lives. And I consider it my duty as a helping professional to kindly but firmly challenge those who are in trouble to examine their true beliefs. be honest with themselves about their intentions, and to make a concerted effort to change both their dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors. It's very different work from traditional insight-oriented psychotherapy. But in our times, most folks need much more than mere insight into their difficulties. Most often, they need to grow and strengthen their character, and growth always entails change. And because real change can only happen in the here and now, they must necessarily be confronted on and demonstrate a willingness to change their distorted thinking or problematic behavior the moment it occurs. So my work has largely become challenging folks to be honest with themselves about themselves, to confront their problematic beliefs and behavior patterns, and to reinforce themselves for daring to think and behave differently. In so doing, they become better persons. But without question, this is an almost insurmountable task in the absence of faith."