Westheights Church Library review of the book “Inside Out” by author Dr. Larry Crabb.  Reviewed by Heather Cressman.

The Biblical concept put forth in this book promises a closer relationship with God and others if you’re willing to start from the Inside Out.  But this journey’s not for the faint of heart.  It requires humility, brutal honesty and a sincere desire to rid oneself of the ugly sin of self-protection that’s existed since that day in the Garden when Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake!  Here’s a synopsis of what Dr. Crabb has to say:

God created us to enjoy flawless and bountiful relationships, both with Him and each other.  So why do we, and our relationships, fall short?  Why is there so much pain, disappointment and heartache in something that’s supposed to fill us with joy, thrill our souls and make us feel fully alive?

The answer lies in our inability to deal truthfully with life, and with ourselves.  We need to accept that there’s a certain amount of necessary pain in this life; pain-free happiness won’t be a reality until Heaven.  You can’t read your Bible more, pray more, submerse yourself further in church activities or try harder and ‘make it all better’ – there is truly something wrong with everything!  Oh, that’s not to say that there aren’t wonderful things and people here on earth that we can enjoy;  just to say that nothing’s perfect; everything’s ‘a bit off’.  And it’ll stay that way until Christ comes again.  People let us down.  We let people down.  This is the necessary pain occurring as the result of living in a fallen world with sinful people.

Our unnecessary pain comes when we demand that this pain be eliminated from our lives.  It is our way, not God’s way, we insist, and so we self-protect; we put up walls, barriers – anything to keep humans and harm at arm’s length.  As we do this, we are sinning.  How?  Jesus taught that we can’t work for both God and money; that we will naturally come to love one and despise the other; with the ‘loved one’ eventually ruling our life.    The same goes for self-protection and loving others fully (1st Corinthians 13 kind of fully!).  Self-interest always corrupts love.   The insidious and dangerous part of this sin is that it’s so subtle, so hidden, that you may not even be aware of it!

Most of us tend to relate to others with the hidden purpose of maintaining our comfort and avoiding whatever sort of interaction we find threatening.  For example, take the husband who’s extremely patient with his irritating, derisive wife; he never says anything in response to her hyperbole.  One could assume that he’s merely exercising one of the Fruits of the Spirit: patience.   And that well could be.  However, it also could be that this particular man has an issue with confrontation, and what is masquerading as patience is actually the self-protective mechanism of avoidance; he simply does not want to deal with the outcome of speaking up.  So, is he really acting out of loving kindness towards his wife, or is he selfishly protecting himself from an uncomfortable conversation?  Only he, and God, knows for sure.  It’ll take a really sincere look inside for clarity.

As Christians, we find it easier to focus on the more obvious ‘sins of behavior’ …adultery, addictions, lying, etc.  They’re far easier for us to identify and simpler to measure their eradication.  The ‘sins of the heart’, (acting out of self-interest rather than out of love for others) are far more difficult to pinpoint and therefore, much easier to ignore or remain oblivious.  But as Jesus admonished us:  “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:26).  An honest, often painful look inside ourselves is integral to resolving the sins of the heart because it is possible to correct what’s wrong in how we relate (behavior) without ever repenting of a commitment to self-protection.

Once we understand the concept of relational sin, we repent by radically shifting our motivation and direction from self-preservation to our trust that Christ has given and is preserving our life.  The fruit of repentance is a changed style of relating that replaces self-protective maneuvering with loving involvement.  This effort to change must involve, at its core, a shift in direction away from dependence on one’s own resources for life, to dependence on God.

If you think you’re ready to take on this challenge, then I strongly encourage you to read this book!  It could change your life!