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When No One Sees (Trinity Forum Study Series) Paperback – Jul 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: NavPress (July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576831590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576831595
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 18.8 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,213,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Duncan on 22 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant book, edited by one of the most brilliant men in the Western Christian scene today. Dr Os Guinness, born in China, educated in England, now living in America, is, according to the blurb, the author of numerous books, the first, which almost every young Christian student read years ago, was "The Dust of Death" and another well-known one which you may have heard of or read, called "The Gravedigger File". He is a bit of a skull, but like C S Lewis, he has the gift of making complex concepts simple.

This book opens with the sentence: "At the end of the twentieth century, one of the most urgent items of unfinished business for the new millennium is the issue of leadership in free societies and, in particular, the place of character in leadership." Lots of us are leaders of one sort or another, whether in church life or the community, in politics or our places of work. People may look up to us as folks who have a godly character. Are they right? Is what they see the truth? "Character", as the book says, "is clearly distinct from personality, image, reputation or celebrity. Applied to a person, it is the essential "stuff" he or she is made of, the inner reality.... As such, it determines behaviour..." Basically: Who you are when no-one's looking.

Leaders quoted include quite a few American Presidents, presumably on the basis that the most powerful man in the world has very few people around him who can restrain him if his own character cannot. So Bill Clinton, Harry S Truman, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Thomas Jefferson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and others are in here, plus Winston Churchill, Frederick the Great, Niccolo Machiavelli and many others.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The importance of character in an age of image 5 July 2005
By Michael Erisman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Os Guinness has a knack for taking difficult and complex subjects and capturing and presenting information that allows small chunks of the philosophy to be grasped and pondered deeply. This book is no exception. The fact that it is also a study guide is even more effective in delivering the message while directing the reader to several key questions to consider in each section.

One of the best aspects of the book are the hundreds of quotes and essays, all around the central theme of the importance of character. While our culture often acts to create an "end justifies the means" behavioral set, never before has character been so important, or so difficult to really practice and live.

The book begins with some essays from famous leaders; from Plato to George Washington, Winston Churchill to Machiavelli, and compares and contrasts what each felt about the importance of character, and how it was to be demonstrated. Much of the material is pretty well known, yet the ability to so easily read and discuss different styles and approaches is well worth the effort.

My favorite sections were on the "Cultural Erosions of Character" in which the many examples of how society pushes and changes the definition and meaning in life impacts what we define as important at all. From advertising, to media, the pressure to conform is greater than ever, but in some ways has always existed.

One of the best essay's in my opinion is called the "Revenge of Failure" wherein Henry Fairlie rips the "legend of our times", as envy at its worst. No longer content to envy what others have and we do not, we now attempt to destroy in others that which we cannot achieve ourselves. This process degrades talent and is a poor attempt to "buy" our way into importance not through the achievement of something remarkable, but through the tearing down of the remarkable achievement into something attainable. Thus character becomes something that is no longer "earned".

The sections on plastic surgery and other shifts into a looks based culture further erode the importance of character. In this relentless and obsessed pursuit of the elusive perfection, the hunter becomes the hunted, and always loses in the battle to fight against aging and the myth of happiness in ones physical appearance. Powerful depictions of how this societal pressure has claimed far too many who sacrifice character for fleeting and shallow appearance, are depicted with a convicting clarity.

Overall, this is a very well done and thought provoking book. As a study guide it would be ideal for small groups, or even personal reflections. The book is so full of quotes and essays that it can be read at once, or in dozens of small bites with equal effectiveness. Highly recommended.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Deep, Thoughtful, and Stimulating 21 May 2005
By Thomas M. Loarie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Five years ago, Pat Richie, former Chaplain of the Championship 49ers, pioneered a weekly executive development/fellowship program here in Danville, CA (San Francisco's famed "East Bay"). Participants meet on Friday morning for breakfast and discussion of an assigned reading assignment relating to leadership. With Pat facilitating, participants learn leadership fundamentals from one another's experience and observations. The discussions are faith-based, robust and enlightening.

Guiness' "When No One Sees" has been the book of choice this past year. It has been an excellent choice. It begins "by exploring the place of character in our Western Heritage, from the ideas of the Bible and Plato to Machiavelli and James Madison, and in real life, from Alexander the Great to Winston Churchill.

Guiness' "then looks at the uncomfortable but inspiring role of suffering in forging - and exposing - character and at modern examples of erosion of character today."

The discussion then moves on to "an essential point: the cultivation of character - a powerful theme for centuries in Western Civilization and a key component of the 'good life' and 'good society.'"

The author forces the reader (in our case, the group) to examine and self-determine whether or not character matters. If so, what are the correct practices, insights, and habits that lead to strong, value based character. And what are the underlying spiritual truths about character that are available to all - truths that are profound, practical, revolutionary, and timely.

"When No One Sees" is not light, bedtime reading. It is deep, thoughtful, and stimulating.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A great teaser for in-depth character studies 6 April 2006
By Teresa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is another in a long line of books that continue to feed my appetite for serious discussion on the movers and shakers of history. I would say that this book is like a wonderful appetizer to vital historical and philosophical studies. It's perfect for a small group and likely to cause some heated debate. It definitely causes reflection on the differences between cultural Chrisitanity and Christianity through conviction. In a climate where working life and decisions therein are a sort of stage and life behind that curtain is accepted as a completely different arena of actions and ideas, this book is a spark that will definitely light a flame in your soul. What is your source and where do you stand?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Highly Recommended 23 Sept. 2006
By Ray Mccollum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As one who's been hiring and firing in the public and private sector for almost 40 years, I can tell you this book is a gift we ought to give every staffer. It's basically a highly readable workbook, a tool for understanding the true nature of human character and how to develop it. The reader will be greatly impacted if the material is treated as a personal devotional guide, reading it slowly, meditatively, contemplatively. Guinness touches the very essence of the subject. Who we are "when no one sees" is who we truly are.

Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Character versus competence and charisma 16 Feb. 2011
By Erik Gfesser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This reviewer finds it surprising that no readers have submitted a review of this work for almost five years, given that this book is among the best collections of essays this reviewer has read in quite some time. "When No One Sees" is part of a book series entitled "Trinity Forum Study Series" edited by Os Guinness that is intended "to help thoughtful people examine the foundational issues through which faith acts upon the public good of modern society". Before setting out to help the reader sort through the various arguments between whether "character counts because character has consequences" and "competence and charisma matter more", the author discusses the answers to three broad questions: "What is character?", "Why is the character issue so confusing and uncertain today?", and "Why does character matter?"

The reading selections from 28 different classical and modern authors in this series entry are broken down into five parts. The first part, "The Importance of Character", provides foundational readings on the Western discussion of character's importance. The second part, "Character in the Crucible", discusses the prominent historical theme that character is revealed most clearly in crisis rather than success or routine. The third part, "Cultural Erosions of Character", highlights modern erosions of character. The fourth part entitled "Spiritual Foundations for Strong Character" presents readings that emphasize spiritual foundations for strong character. And the last part, "Heroes of Character", provides examples of noble character from Western history.

Personal favorites include passages from "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde, which provide some unique twists to the conventional theme of a man selling his soul to the Devil, starting with his being a modern agnostic who includes no real Devil in the story, "Everyman for Our Times" by Richard Sennett, a professor of sociology, which argues that "work ethic is undermined when the idea of gratification is separated from the idea of hard work", and "The Great Divorce" by C. S. Lewis, which provides a particularly haunting passage involving a ghost, an angel, and a little red lizard. While the readings are well chosen, what helps make this book work are the brief author biographies which introduce each reading, as well as the hundreds of sidebar quotes by a wide selection of individuals, from a broad spectrum of world views, conveniently inserted throughout.
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