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on 16 August 2012
In former days, comments Tim Keller, it was generally assumed that the root of evil was pride: having too important a view of oneself.
By contrast, nowadays it is often reckoned that the root of evil is having too low a view of oneself; and therefore much time and money is spent building up the self-esteem of people who, for whatever reason, count themselves worthless.

But in this short book (46 pages; really just an expanded sermon, and drawing considerable wisdom from CS Lewis) Keller says that neither of these approaches ultimately gives a solution. Taking verses from 1 Corinthians, he shows that high self-esteem and low self-esteem are both, in different ways, a form of pride. The thing that brings freedom is what he calls 'gospel humility'.

The 'gospel-humble' person is neither a self-hating person, not a self-loving person, but a self-forgetful person who peacefully entrusts himself to God as his judge, depending on the redeeming power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Because of its short length the book is not regaled with real-life stories of people with self-esteem issues. That has the virtue of keeping it succinct; however for some it may make it seem less accessible.

Nevertheless I can imagine this book being helpful for those who feel trapped in the 'depths', particularly if it were read with a gentle, loving Christian friend who can help apply the principles. But, as always with this kind of thing, the best time to read it or give it to others would be as 'preventative medicine', letting God's word shape our world-view, change our hearts, and bring peace to us and to others.
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2012
The chaps at 10 of Those have taken the initiative to produce a number of shorter and cheaper, but decent quality, booklets, and the first of these are now out. There's a brief introduction to the doctrine of The Cross by Andrew Sach and Steve Jeffery (well-qualified to write on this having worked on the mammoth but important Pierced for our transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution). The other is this wonderful new outing from Tim Keller. Largely based on a sermon Keller preached at Redeemer in New York 10 years ago, it is only £2.99 including postage and a quick read at less than 50 pages. [Seeing as you have to pay to download that particular talk anyway, you might as well choose to pay for whichever medium suits you best!]

But I'm very pleased this is out in print now, simply because it gets to the heart of such a crucial contemporary issue: the power of the Ego. Not that the Ego is a brand new problem, of course - it's just that, as so often, we've derided and therefore rejected the ways of the ancients in dealing with it. This booklet contains all the hallmarks of a Keller treatment: close attention to the details of the text (in this case, a handling of 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7), explicit debts to the thought of C S Lewis, an appreciation of how contemporary thinking is developing and shifting, as well as a vital understanding of real people's pastoral needs.

I was particularly struck by Keller's analysis of the apostle's image of the heart being `puffed up', a metaphor related to a bellows. From this, he draws four characteristics of the ego's desperation to assert itself: it becomes empty, painful, busy and fragile. (pp14ff) The more one considers each of these features, the more we're forced to confront the reality. How do we fill up the empty and heal the pain? The western world is desperate for answers. But it has been completely barking up the wrong tree. But at least some have begun to realise this - and Keller introduces the hope for a path through on the back of a very interesting psychological survey:
"A few years ago, there was an article in the New York Times magazine (Feb 3, 2002) by psychologist Lauren Slater called `The trouble with Self-esteem.' It wasn't a ground-breaking article or a bolt out of the blue. She was simply beginning to report what experts have known for years. The significant thing she says is that there is no evidence that low self-esteem is a big problem in society. She quotes three current studies into the subject of self-esteem, all of which reach this conclusion and she states that `people with high self-esteem pose a greater threat to those around them than people with low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself is not the source of our country's biggest, most expensive social problems.'"(p10)

At last! Some sense. But according to this exposition of the apostle Paul, freedom from either high or low self-esteem will never be found within our around us. True freedom to be, to love, to give (without manipulation, competition, or one-upmanship), just as Martin Luther discovered nearly 500 years ago, can only be found in the gospel, and in particular, the gospel of justification. For as Keller so frequently teaches
"Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?" (p39)

And what joy such knowledge can bring. And forgetfulness.
"This is gospel-humility, blessed self-forgetfulness. Not thinking more of myself as in modern cultures, or less of myself as in traditional cultures. Simply think of myself less." (p36)

When we meet people like this, people whose hearts and minds are truly filled with Christ and not themselves, we can't help but be drawn to them - for they never make us feel insecure, ignored or unloved. Just like people felt when they met Christ, as it happens. This is true attractiveness. But it is also what we long for ourselves. Here's hoping that this great little book will have precisely this effect. Get it. Read it. Live it.
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on 17 February 2013
So much Christianity nowadays is all about 'me'. This book helps us to become free to be who we are in God's eyes. It helps to free us from our past - our sins and our being sinned against - so we can move forward and live now.
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on 20 April 2014
Keller's "book" The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is a short, 3 chapter work looking at what it means to have real freedom in Christ.

The first chapter lays out our issue: We think too much about our own self-esteem - too much and we're selfish or proud, too little and we're miserable.
The second chapter lays out a Christian response.
The third chapter actually tells you how to have that freedom. Essentially it boils down to CS Lewis' suggestion that self-forgetfulness is not thinking less of ourselves (self-deprecation) but thinking of ourselves less. Instead, we should be thinking more of Christ. Its not about our self-esteem, but how much do we esteem Him.

Some issues though:
The whole work reads as a good published sermon. This isn't a bad thing, but he often refers to verses, yet the passage he's preaching from (contained at the front) doesn't have verse numbers. Without a Bible handy, its sometimes hard to follow.

Secondly, its almost like he spends too much time building up to the solution of "How might I achieve such self-forgetfulness?". Its a good book, but I wish he'd have gotten to this part sooner and expanded it, rather than spend so much time on the first 2 chapters. I was reading them thinking "Yep, gotya, I agree... now what?".
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on 14 February 2013
Pithy, short and to the point! Keep it next to your Bible. I may be the only one, but I keep coming back to this. Mr Keller is an excellent Christian writer, unreservedly recommend you read this.
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on 5 March 2015
I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who wants to learn how to live a life that doesn't revolve around our own thoughts about ourselves or others thoughts about ourselves.
It's short and sweet enough to get straight to the point whilst being extremely helpful in understanding what Paul is trying to tell us. It is definitely life changing and I hope that I am able to put it into action in my own life.
Read this book if you want your life to be changed as well. It is definitely worth it and don't worry, he gives you the steps too.
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on 26 March 2013
A short, concise, but powerful book that puts the whole self image issue in perspective. A book to read and then spend some time digesting. Potentially life changing.
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on 5 January 2013
I think this is an excellent book because it concisely describes one of the biggest problems we are facing in this world here in the 21st century. If we look to those living in extreme poverty you will often find they are happier than we are living in a comfortable western culture, why ? I think it is because they simply get on with their lives and are not continuously thinking about themselves and their place in the scheme of life.
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on 5 April 2014
I've been pondering issues of humility versus pride; humility or self-abasement ... how to remain humble yet confident and bold ... I've been studying the humility of Jesus - reading Andrew Murray (which I highly recommend!) - mulling things over; and then - quite by chance (NOT!) I came across this short book by Timothy Keller. He uses 1 Corinthians 3: 21 - 4:7 as a foundation and proceeds to explain the 'Freedom of Self Forgetfulness' logically and in such a way that my ponderings and mullings settled into a rational understanding with a huge sigh of relief. Basically, I see it this way: the opinions of others concerning me really do not matter to me. My own opinion of me doesn't matter to me; it's God's opinion (or verdict) of me that matters, and His only. And because I believe and accept that Jesus sacrificed Himself for me, that verdict is 'not guilty', and 'accepted' and 'beloved'. I don't have to concern myself with myself anymore - I can trust all that to Him - and in this, I will stop fretting and fussing over my roller-coaster successes and failures, popularity or isolation, respect or ridicule - and be able to focus my attention on Him and on others. FREEDOM INDEED.
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on 13 March 2013
Very thought provoking. The book reminds us that it is only when we are not obsessing about ourselves that we can truly experience abundant life.
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