SPIRITUAL TO SELF-HELP: HOW FAR OF A LEAP IS IT?

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The literary genre of self-help has exploded in the past 50 years. It is a genre that often intermingles with New Age ideas. But what about a self-help book with decisive Christian roots? There is such a book, but you probably didn’t realize it. What Color is Your Parachute by Dick Bolles is a self-help book aimed at helping those seeking career guidance and discerning a professional passion. It is a career self-help book that is also based in Christian scripture. In the early versions (an updated version is released each year) there is no mention of God or faith. The language is strictly secular. In later editions beginning with the 2015 version, there are mentions of faith and God through the main book, and an added appendix expounding on the role of faith in job hunting and overall life planning. Even in earlier ‘secular’ versions, it isn’t much of a reach to see that the Bible, specifically Paul’s letter to the Romans on the talents, was an influence on this book from the beginning. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” – Romans 12: 6-8.

Imagine taking a self-help book and subbing all of the secular language with spiritual language; and in reverse taking a spiritually based book of guidance and changing the language to that purely secular in nature. Is the message of the either book dramatically changed? Here we can start to see the intermingling of the secular and sacred. Literature designed to belong in one camp or the other often differ most not in principle, but in vernacular. In my mind this goes to show, yet again, that ‘ordinary’ life is spiritual. The mundane and divine are inherently intermingled and absolute secularism is impossible. Further many of its attempts are damaging to spiritual traditions and faithful hearts. I appreciate that Bolles has been able to show the Western world that a beloved ‘secular’ book is in fact one rooted in scripture. In his teachings, he goes further to discuss the connections between faith and ‘real life’. The duality of his work is a great reminder of the duality between the mundane and divine in life.

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