I’m not a self-help book kind of reader (I’m more of a help-myself-to-some-fiction kind of a reader!), but I know there are a lot of people who love self-help books. And, in a way, it’s admirable because to fully digest and practice what you read in a book from this genre, you are saying, “I need help!” That takes some level of humility.
There are self-help books devoted to study in a wide field of topics, such as dealing with change, getting rich, understanding your spouse and being a better parent. Many of the more popular ones have names which grab your attention, like Who Moved My Cheese?and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
Instead of reading what I assume are really helpful books full of strategies and personal anecdotes, I often choose the less glamorous path of on the job training. For a lot of scenarios, I prefer to get in there and decide as I go. I like to pretend that I have an extremely potent power of intuition, and I am better equipped to read the situation and judge how to act instead of relying on what I remember from a book I read a couple of years ago.
But this approach is far from foolproof. There are some lessons I have a hard time truly learning. (Like how many times do I have to learn the hard way that I should always check to see if there’s toilet paper before starting my business in a public restroom?) This is why I am more and more impressed by people with true wisdom—not tricks and systems, but rooted-in-their-core understanding.
If I were going to read a self-help book, I’d probably stick to the Book of Proverbs which was mostly composed by King Solomon. It’s interesting that Solomon, the greatest and wealthiest man of his time, would work into his busy schedule the writing of basic instructions like how to act while dining with an important person. (Proverbs 23:1-3) It’s as if Solomon understands that the way we conduct ourselves here on earth, even in the most mundane circumstances, can have lasting effects on our health, our family and our future. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, said “Wisdom is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves.”
There’s a great summary of wise traits and advice in Proverbs 22. In just 29 verses, you can learn about good reputations, greed, humility, parenting, generosity, laziness, and hard work. I love Proverbs 22:3, “A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered.” (The Message) That pretty much sums it up. That’s good advice!