Margin: A Book Review

There is nothing like a free book! Okay, maybe I should say that there is nothing like a free book that is also a book worth reading. Especially if it comes just when you need it. That is exactly what happened to me when I downloaded Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. to my Kindle after Melanie Shock tweeted that the e-book was free for a day.

In this book Dr. Swenson makes a strong case (with a Christian perspective) against progress as we know it. That is progress defined and dominated by money, technology, and education. All three offer value but they do not do much to meet our transcendent needs. “What about the relational life?” asks Dr. Swenson. After all, life is all about relationships; with God, with ourselves, and with others.

“As we have already seen, progress builds by using the tools of economics, education, and technology. But what are the tools of the relational life? Are they not the social (my relationship to others), the emotional (my relationship to myself), and the spiritual (my relationship to God)? None of the tools of progress has helped build the relational foundation our society requires.”

Along with this false sense of progress comes the incredible rate of change that our society now faces. Change does not happen linearly, it happens exponentially. As a result “the circumstances of our age are quantitatively different from anything previously encountered, and the dramatic nature of this difference is consistently underestimated.”

“No one in the history of humankind has ever had to live with the number and intensity of stressors we have acting upon us today. They are unprecedented. The human spirit is called upon to withstand rapid changes and pressures never before encountered.”

These problems and others have combined forces to rob us of any remaining margin in our lives. The results have been catastrophic! We are on a collision course with self-destruction and the only way to avoid a disaster is to change our ways.

Progress and change have stolen our margin and we must buy it back. Dr. Swenson prescribes that we take a healthy dose of margin in emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances. These medicines can be administered through contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest.

This book, written in 2004, carries even more relevance today than when it was written. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Restore the margins. Restore relationships.

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