Can We Think Like Jesus?
BOOK PICK: Thinking Like Jesus
THINKING LIKE JESUS
The Psychology of a Faithful Disciple
By Dr. Ray Guarendi
EWTN Publishing, 2018
149 pages, $14.95
This book could bear the abbreviation “WWJT” — “What Would Jesus Think?” The title might, at first, seem a bit presumptuous. The reader may ask, “Can we really think like Jesus?” Catholic radio and television personality and clinical psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi believes we can, and he makes his case in his latest book.
Anyone familiar with Dr. Ray will recognize him here, as his direct style and characteristic humor shine through. You can practically hear him speaking as you read.
In Thinking Like Jesus, he uses his clinical expertise, coupled with his faith, to tackle topics such as humility, the need for a will aligned with God, hurtful words, raising children and virtue. Along the way, there’s also plenty of wisdom from the Gospels and the Church. Through it all, Dr. Ray helps us to better understand the sinful, human person and how to love one another better.
This self-help book turns pop psychology on its head by applying biblical principles to the questions people commonly ask, such as: “Is it normal?” Dr. Ray suggests that we’re often asking the wrong questions. He challenges the reader: If you’re going to be a follower of Christ, that demands certain actions.
Readers will appreciate Guarendi’s honesty. “What’s the best thing we can give to those who matter most to us? Our gift is our personality, specifically its better side. We can make the effort to be winsome, to show interest in them and their lives, to be pleasant and agreeable, and to be less self-focused and more them-focused.”
Readers will also appreciate the wisdom and his fresh outlook.
Parents, especially, will find this book helpful and edifying. In a particularly strong chapter, “Spiritual Correctness,” he tackles what he terms “psychological correctness,” noting that even the experts can’t agree on the best techniques for child-raising.
He tackles the myth that “there are ways, if not to guarantee, at least to make it very likely, that a child raised in the faith will remain in the faith,” pointing out that each human person has free will and their own personality and circumstances that propel them to belief. “Could Christ himself get everyone to follow him?” asks Guarendi.
The answer is “No.” Yet we often still feel like we can do better than Christ himself. He warns parents against the extremes of taking too much pride and credit in and for their children’s faith, or despairing and blaming themselves for their children’s lack of it, while encouraging them to practice the faith fully as a family.
“The natural ways of children push us to supernatural virtues,” writes Guarendi. Elsewhere he writes, “The more I complain, the more I’m telling God I don’t appreciate His gifts.”
Insightful, Dr. Ray aptly describes where we find ourselves culturally. He rejects a lot of modern psychology and tackles the use of value-laden words and the rise of self-esteem.
“The Bible nowhere uses the language of moral neutrality. If centuries of experience are any guide, it is not the presence of moral words that damages the psyche. It is their absence.”
The book is broken up into short, easy-to-read chapters. At times, Dr. Ray can be a bit repetitive. More than once, he writes about self-worth, reminding readers that our worth is determined by God, not us. Still, such points deserve repetition. Thinking Like Jesus will help you deal with difficult situations and people by better understanding yourself and your own motivations. Instead of describing it as a self-help book, it might be more apt to call it a “God-help” book.
Tim Drake serves as executive director of Pacem in Terris
Hermitage Retreat Center near Isanti, Minnesota.