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How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness
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How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  846 ratings  ·  98 reviews
From the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People comes an inspiring new bestseller that puts human feelings of guilt and inadequacy in perspective - and teaches us how we can learn to accept ourselves and others even when we and they are less than perfect. How Good Do We Have to Be? is for everyone who experiences that sense of guilt and disappointment. Harold Kush ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Back Bay Books (first published 1996)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  846 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Thomas Edmund
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Objectively reviewing a book is hard at the best of times. Typically one finds it hard to tone back scathe, or worship. Oddly I've found one harder in How Good to We Have to Be?

Let me explain.

I agree with the basic thesis of this piece - high standards are OK, but don't forget we are fallible imperfect humans who should forgive ourselves and each other.

My problem is where this comes from. Its driving philosophy directly from the Bible is controversial than interpreting the Bible metaphorically
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has done me good. As soon as I finished the last page I wanted to begin it again.
A redefinition of the creation story, and a re-envisioning of the meaning behind the concept of Original Sin, the author's reinterpretation frees one to let go of the unattainable aim for perfection, forgive and accept imperfection in ourselves and each other, and realize that "...God loves us in our aspiring and in our stumbling." Regarding Original Sin, he says, "the Original Sin that affects virtually
Jul 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book is somewhat of a classic statement on what humanistic religion and wisdom thinks about God's righteous standards. Harold Kushner asks the all-important question and answers for the unregenerate world.

Actually, Kushner spends most of the book not answering the question the title of his book poses, but rather fills the pages telling us how good we don't have to be. According to Kushner, we don't have to be perfect, and contrary to the voice of our conscience God doesn't require perfectio
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Loved this book. The author gives a new perspective of the Adam/Eve story and origin of sin. It is SO new and beautifully illustrated of this new awareness, it makes me look at things differently.

He devotes a whole chapter to the parent/child relationship that really delves into the joys and pitfalls that if you are a parent (young or old) - commit to at least reading this chapter.

I loved this book and I will end up reading it again including all the stories and philosopher's he quotes.
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is mostly a rehash of the ideas presented in "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", with many references to literature and modern culture, including jokes inserted parenthetically. The chapters would probably be good speeches, but I didn't enjoy Kushner's style in this book. I enjoyed his original book much more.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is at least the third of Rabbi Harold Kushner's books that our Sunday school class has read. Kushner's books are easy to read and present interesting perspectives on scripture. This book reexamines the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Though I don't always agree with Kushner's interpretations, I do find them thought-provoking. His overall message is positive. How good do we have to be? According to Kushner, we don't have to perfect, as long as we keep trying to be and do good.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was given this book and finally got around to reading it. Harold Kushner served as a congregational rabbi for over 30 years and fell into writing after suffering the loss of his son (inspiring his first book). This book explores how simple principles such as good and evil can pervade our culture, our lives and affect us. It's up to us to decide if the outcome is positive or negative. He starts out referencing the Garden of Eden/Adam and Eve story. Eve ate the apple, God punished them both: man ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it liked it
This isn’t Kushner’s best work, but continues on a theme on which he has focused much of his writing—developing aspects of compassion to soften the hard edges of life. In this book he traces much of human feelings of guilt and blame to what he believes is a misinterpretation of the biblical Adam and Eve story. The conventional view is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating forbidden fruit, for which they and all mankind have been and will be punished forever by the human sufferings of work an ...more
Pat aka Tygyr
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This short book packed a lot into it. The author is a Rabbi and frequently quotes scripture as the book covers the messiness of life. Sibling rivalry, dating, marriage, etc. And always the question - How Good Do We Have to Be? My husband and I read and discussed this with a small Catholic faith based book club. We spent months reading the book in small chunks, discussing, telling our own stories, and reflecting on the book. Our group agreed this was very thought provoking and made us rethink ma ...more
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rabbi Kushner is very good at distilling years of experience into short, readable books. After reading some other reviews on this site regarding whether his "take" on the subject of this book is theologically accurate... I have come to realize that I would rather have a person's honest opinion on big questions like this... rather than some answer that "lines up" in all the proper ways. It reminded me of the kindness shown to the reader in the Ragamuffin Gospel... and that's a good thing.
Bartholomew Timm
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
One of my favorite philosophical books. Although he certainly discusses the role of God and religion in our lives, it is largely a discussion of a healthy approach to life. This is a great book for married couples, for parents, for young people, for old people, for those who are successful and those who are struggling. In short, whatever stage of life you are in, there is some wisdom in here for you.
Jul 24, 2007 added it
I thought this book might help in my personal quest to be a "good person". I have been juggling with the philosophical dilemma for quite some time of how to become a truly good person (aka Buddha) reconciled with the fact that we all have our weaknesses (ie: selfishness, vanity etc.). I liked "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", so we'll see...
Jan 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this - the Adam & Eve story was interesting. And I figured if I went in with an expectation of some trite "self-help" moments I would be okay. Unfortunately, the clearly priviliged perspective and often superficial ideas just made me wonder why I would ever take advice from someone who advised a congregant to simply donate money to solve her small moral dilemma. No thanks.
Aug 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
I've never read a more heretical, poorly constructed, poorly thought-out book. Ever.
Rabbi Kushner looks at Bible stories like Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, proposing that what we've understood has been misinterpreted. He mixes what he knows of psychology, religion, and the human relationships he's observed - and asks the reader to look at things from a different perspective. While not everything he said struck home, there were several sections that made me stop to think and reflect.

"Love is like a muscle, the more it is exercised today, the more it can be used tomorrow."

"It was
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For such a little and simple-read book, it packs quite a punch!

I love the re-telling of the Adam and Eve story, which Kushner sets up as our inheritance, then clarification of the original sin. He then goes on to delineate how that inheritance sullies our view of God in what He wants of us, along with how (and why) we relate to people the way we do. All too often, like a ‘complete’ circle we go on about our lives so quickly that we don’t consider let alone take time to enjoy if not also notice
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's been a long time since I've read anything by Harold Kushner, and this book made me want to engage his writing and thought more often. I deeply enjoyed his anecdotes about forgiveness being wrestled with and worked out in family systems, and how doing so can reorient one's attitude toward self and thus with others. As I read it, I found myself thinking quite intently about my own family relationships as well as those with certain members of the circles in which I travel, and how past misunde ...more
Jaz Twersky
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I enjoyed this book and found it thought-provoking. It's oriented around the idea that we as humans are imperfect, will always be imperfect, and that that's okay. We should be striving to bring more good into the world, and to do good things, but also to operate in a spirit of generosity and forgiveness, towards ourselves and others, for the many times we will fail at that.

It was less Jewish than I expected, and for me personally, that was disappointing; I was looking for a specifically Jewish
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
In spite of my two star rating, there were parts of this book that impressed me. I chose to read it because of my "star gift" from church -- to think about how "reliability" is something I have to work on. I have gone past my first reaction of "Really? Me?" to consider the flip side, and I thought this book might give me more insight.

Hence the two star rating. I think Kushner was verbose and could have made his major points in fewer words, so I let myself skim through details once I understood h
Alexis Dosal
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am enough. Despite my imperfections, despite my faults and failures. That’s what makes me human. And being human is not a punishment for the Original Sin committed by Adam and Eve, but rather a blessing that allows us to feel things that only we as humans can feel. This book was lended to me by my therapist to allow me insight into why it’s ok to not be perfect. While this isn’t going to cure my perfectionistic tendencies, it opened my eyes to the idea that just because I’m not perfect or I do ...more
John Hannam
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are moments when we are hurt, or have hurt others. We wonder what the path forward is? How do we atone for the hurt we have caused? How can we forgive someone who has hurt us? This book brings to light important issues of guilt, shame, and forgiveness. Kushner's insights are for married couples, parent, siblings - relationships.

This book is filled with the wisdom of someone who understands what that path forward looks like.

None of us are perfect - we weren't meant to be. That is our beauty
Michelle McKay
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't realize that I started reading this a year ago! I don't find much time for reading books in print, so this small book was lost along the wayside for me. But I grabbed it today to finally finish the last 60 pages.

This book has wonderful perspective and insight. I highlighted many great pieces!!
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book to which I have returned several times. I have read it entirely 3 times and have skimmed through it reviewing my highlights and margin notes countless times.
Rabbi Kushner’s interpretation of the myths in Genesis - that’s myth as story which has a personal impact á la Joseph Campbell- completely changed how I view life and faith.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eugenea Pollock
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kushner rarely disappoints, and this is not one of those times. His understanding of the human spirit is insightful and instructive. This book delves into its imperfection. Though not “perfect,” I am glad that our Sunday School class chose it.
Suzanne Meek
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Good book with great messages.
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non
Let go of some guilt and accept love...
Kevin Orth
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am continuously impressed by Rabbi Kushner's capacity to put deep, rich, profound wisdom into simple words. Highly recommend all his work.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful! One of the deepest, wisest, and full of wisdom meditations on being human. Whoever you are and whatever your experience of life has been, you are worthy of love!
Like Rabbi Kushner’s other books, I enjoyed immensely reading about his perspectives, though I believe this one was a little more speculative and less scriputrally insightful than the other two I’ve read. Nonetheless, How Good Do We Have To Be? is a keeper, and one I will refer back to for ideas and insights into the human condition and connection with the divine. The following are some thoughts and quotes from the book that have stayed with me:

1. Our heavenly father does not stop loving us when
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Harold S. Kushner is rabbi laureate of Temple Israel in the Boston suburb of Natick, Massachusetts. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he is the author of more than a dozen books on coping with life’s challenges, including, most recently, the best-selling Conquering Fear and Overcoming Life’s Disappointments.