Gary Chapman is an ordained minister and licensed marriage counselor. He is the author of the bestselling The Five Love Languages which has sold more than 5 million copies and was the first in a series of love-language books. Chapman is the host of a national radio program, A Growing Marriage, and a popular speaker. In this top-drawer spiritual work, he muses on the satisfactions of a loving life and then shares the seven secrets of bringing it into all of our relationships. They are:
• Kindness: Discovering the Joy of Helping Others
• Patience: Accepting the Imperfections of Others
• Forgiveness: Finding Freedom from the Grip of Anger
• Courtesy: Treating Others as Friends
• Humility: Stepping Down So Someone Else Can
• Generosity: Giving Yourself to Others
• Honesty: Revealing Who You Really Are
Each chapter contains a treasure trove of practical material including a questionnaire, a definition of the character trait in the context of authentic love, habits to acquire, counterpoints to the character trait which must be overcome, a section on how this quality could change how you relate to others, and a mix of questions and suggestions for personal growth.
In the chapter on Kindness, Chapman defines this character trait as "noticing someone else and recognizing his needs. It means seeing the value in every person we meet. And like every trait of a loving person, kindness can be much simpler, and more powerful than we realize." In a section on the big impact of small acts Chapman includes one man's list of kindnesses he observed during one day (an administrative assistant boots up his computer before he arrives in the office; when he leaves the office building, a security man opens the door for him; when he arrives home, his dog meets him at his car wagging his tail). This is a rewarding exercise to do since it arouses within us an appreciation for all the little kindnesses which make our life more pleasant and bearable.
Chapman presents a list of simple ways we can show kindness to others (tip people well, give a store clerk a compliment, share an umbrella with someone when it is raining). Speaking kindly helps to combat thinking negatively about others. Practicing this quality has many physical and health benefits, and it enhances joy in our lives. We liked the following practices at the end of the chapter:
"At least two mornings this week think of five opportunities you might have in the day ahead to express kindness to someone in words or actions. At the end of the day record the acts of service you did."
"Practice hearing yourself talk. After each verbal encounter, ask yourself, What did I say that was kind? and What did I say that was unkind? Then apologize for each of your unwholesome statements."
We also found much to admire in the chapter on courtesy, a subject that is near and dear to our hearts. Chapman defines it as "the act of treating everyone as a friend." It involves thousands of little actions toward strangers, friends, and family members. Courtesy is needed in the neighborhood, on the road, at work, and on the Internet. The public think tank Public Agenda found that 79 percent of those polled think lack of respect and courtesy is a serious national problem.
The author points out that July has been designated National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. You may wonder why such a focus is needed until you take to heart a recent survey in which 91 percent of the respondents said they have been victims of "technology-related public displays of insensitivity." In these times it is countercultural and takes intention and diligent spiritual practice to be courteous. Chapman gives plenty of examples in this chapter.