New York Times bestselling memoirist Donald Miller takes readers on his year-long journey to learn to abandon performance-based relationships and find real intimacy.
After decades of failed relationships and painful drama, Donald Miller decided he'd had enough. Impressing people wasn't helping him connect with anyone. He'd built a life of public isolation, yet he dreamed of meaningful relationships. So at forty years old he made a scary decision: to be himself no matter what it cost.
Scary Close is an audiobook about the risk involved in choosing to impress fewer people and connect with more, about the freedom that comes when we stop acting and start loving. It is a story about knocking down old walls to create a healthy mind, a strong family, and a satisfying career. And it all feels like a conversation with the best kind of friend: smart, funny, true, important.
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
Donald Miller grew up in Houston, Texas. Leaving home at the age of twenty-one, he traveled across the country until he ran out of money in Portland, Oregon, where he lives today.
Harvest House Publishers released his first book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance, in 2000. Two years later, after having audited classes at Portland’s Reed College, Don wrote Blue Like Jazz, which would slowly become a New York Times Bestseller.
In 2004 Don released Searching for God Knows What a book about how the Gospel of Jesus explains the human personality. Searching has become required reading at numerous colleges across the country. In 2005 he released Through Painted Deserts the story of he and a friends road trip across the country. In 2006, he added another book, To Own A Dragon, which offered Miller's reflections on growing up without a father. This book reflected an interest already present in Donald's life, as he founded the The Mentoring Project (formerly the Belmont Foundation)–a non-profit that partners with local churches to mentor fatherless young men.
Don has teamed up with Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson to write the screenplay for Blue Like Jazz which will be filmed in Portland in the spring of 2008 and released thereafter.
Don is the founder of The Belmont Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation which partners with working to recruit ten-thousand mentors through one-thousand churches as an answer to the crisis of fatherlessness in America.
A sought-after speaker, Don has delivered lectures to a wide-range of audiences including the Women of Faith Conference, the Veritas Forum at Harvard University and the Veritas Forum at Cal Poly. In 2008, Don was asked to deliver the closing prayer on Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.
Don’s next book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years humorously and tenderly chronicles Don’s experience with filmmakers as they edit his life for the screen, hoping to make it less boring. When they start fictionalizing Don’s life for film–changing a meandering memoir into a structured narrative–the real-life Don starts a journey to edit his actual life into a better story. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years details that journey and challenges readers to reconsider what they strive for in life. It shows how to get a second chance at life the first time around.
I admire Donald Miller. I admire his courage. I admire his tenacity. And I admire his ability to tell a story. Make no mistake - this guy can write!
Admiring Don Miller does not mean I agree with everything he believes. There's a good deal I disagree with. Yet I appreciate his gifts and insight. For me, reviewing a Don Miller book is like walking a tight rope. On one hand, I have conservative friends who question why I even read the guy. But Miller fans label my critique as "narrow" or "too evangelical."
Scary Close addresses the subject of relational intimacy. The book includes some ideas that are commendable and will be of help to many people.
Strengths in Scary Close
1. It is filled with a stunning degree of transparency.
Miller opens up like never before. He is quick to confess some of his previous relational blunders. He admits his propensity to generate applause. Yet in a moment of unfettered honesty, he admit that "applause is a quick fix. And love is an acquired taste." This kind of openness and honesty sets the stage for the book and never lets up. Miller shares his heart in a way that is noteworthy and encouraging.
2. It cherishes authenticity and rejects hypocrisy.
Scary Close is packed with moments of authenticity which help readers get to the very heart of the story. The subtitle accurately conveys what Miller is after, namely - "dropping the act and finding true intimacy."
At an important juncture, Miller discusses the toxic nature of judgment, that is, being judged unfairly by other people - for being ourselves. The author suggest that this poisonous habit has invaded many relationships which "keeps us from connecting with other people." Ultimately, Miller does a good job at identifying some of the relational land mines the hinder genuine intimacy.
3. It celebrates human relationships.
The most memorable thing about Scary Close is that it celebrates human relationships. The author discusses his most important relationships, the chief of which is his wife and shows how true intimacy develops. Miller is to be commended for his willingness to share from the heart and allow readers to see how his heart operates.
Weaknesses in Scary Close
Strengths considered, there is a missing ingredient in Scary Close. That ingredient is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, the author confesses his allegiance to Jesus. And the author refers to God and finding rest in him. This much is true. But the road to authentic intimacy (which is a necessary path to travel) is paved with psychological tips and therapy which is not grounded in Scripture. Such a critique is bound to draw fire from Miller fans. Yet Miller himself urges readers to avoid being careful, a practice which led to a temporary bout with "writer's block." I apply that well-placed advice when offering critique.
So while there is much to commend in this book, in the final analysis it falls short by jettisoning the gospel. Since the essence of the book is about redemption and reconciliation and the horizontal plane, it is disappointing to bypass the promises of the gospel which offer both horizontal redemption and reconciliation with people and vertical redemption and reconciliation with God through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, resting in one's relationship with God through Jesus is the key to wholeness which leads to relationships which are known for authenticity, health, and intimacy.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.
Sorry Donald Miller. I'm giving this 3 stars. Don't get me wrong. It's vulnerable and honest. And on the other hand it's totally one note. Besty saved you. We get it. But chapters and chapters about one person wore me out. If you'd had more stories about other people who you shared intimacy with it would have meant more for me.
Also...I adore this author but...he was a little to "Guys are guys and Girls are girls" for me. Yawn.
I devoured this book, as I always do with Don's writing. I feel ok calling him that because his books feel moe like a conversation with a friend than a traditional book. While A Million Miles... will probably always be my favorite of his books, this one hits a little more close to home. He details how his intimacy problems kept him from getting married until he was 42. As a 30 year old who hasn't dated much, I see a lot of the same trends in my own life. You get to a point where it's just more comfortable to be single. Perhaps the single most helpful part of this book was when Don compares writers block to intimacy. Am I too afraid to write what's next because it won't be perfect? Am I too afraid to be known and loved because she'll find out I'm not perfect?
Growing up, I loved Donald Miller's books. "Blue Like Jazz" changed my life in several ways, as well as "Searching for God Knows What." I've always been a big fan (I even got to meet Don!)
However, this book disappointed me. Maybe because I'm older or maybe because the book was just "meh" in general, but the magic was gone. This was really just one big long series of name dropping anecdotes under the guise of being a memoir.
I expected more of a "self-help" kind of thing--something more wise and less...name dropping.
As a believer and advocate of therapy, it THRILLS me to see an influential Christian leader and thinker embrace therapy. Miller’s book is an honest and vulnerable portrayal of his emotional hang ups, how it led to his toxic treatment of women and relationships, and how he overcame his deepest shame and insecurities. The book is written in a confessional style, and I appreciated Miller’s honesty and willing to be transparent.
Two minor quibbles. First, Miller’s portrays his wife Betsy as so flawless and perfect a human being as to almost become a two dimensional cardboard character. I can understand why he might choose to do that, but it does oversimplify the complexity of real relationships where two deeply flawed humans are trying to navigate each other’s deepest weaknesses. Second, he says at one point people should only give their hearts to other “healthy people.” But what is a “healthy person”? He admits he is “still figuring that out myself.” The danger here is that a person might become “too picky” and reject anyone the moment they detect the slightest twinge of “unhealthiness” in the other. We are all unhealthy people trying to navigate the world together.
Otherwise, I thought it was a great book and interesting read. I hope it reaches a wide audience and that it persuades more evangelical Christians to consider the benefits of therapy and a deeper search of their inner selves.
Don's journey into marriage, with all the insights of his cultivated community of wisdom, reads like a collection of blog posts. Gone are the days of, "Blue Like Jazz" and, "Searching for God Knows What." Point taken, in so far as, if you are searching to be completed by someone (or some book, as it were), your premise guarantees disappointment. Nevertheless, this book felt like a really well-crafted hook to bring more people into the machine, and sell them online courses and seminars. I get it, we all need to make money. No shame on Don Miller. My only point here, as someone who bought the book, and is thereby already a sucker to the scheme, is it soils the message of authenticity and building more intimate relationships. I could not feel farther away from you, Don.
Scary Close is a fast, easy read. Even while battling a cold and with an active child, I managed to read it in a couple of days. While I don't think the speed at which I read a book is telling of its quality, I will say Miller's style is approachable and engaging. His stories follow a definite theme, but also stand alone, which makes the book easy to pick up.
This is the third book by Miller that I've read and each time I finish, I feel slightly disappointed. Yes, a good story has been told and I've found some connections to my own life through it. However, Miller always flirts with the idea of going deeper into his story, of making a broader connection to humanity, and of taking the book beyond a memoir. He just never does. I keep waiting for more depth and maturity in his writing, but it continues to feel just like a conversation. And not a particularly life-changing conversation, but just one I might have in passing with an acquaintance. For a book about vulnerability, I was hoping for Miller to be a bit more, well, vulnerable.
**I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.**
This book had a lot of "Oh, that's how I am" moments, which I love. I thought it focused a lot on how we have the power to change how we act in relationships, choosing to be open and intimate, which I think is true. But I think it's also important to remember that God is a big factor in that area. He shows us different ways of thinking and allows different circumstances into our lives for reasons that are sometimes apparent to us and sometimes aren't.
However, this was some kind of power in this book that made me realize how closed off I've been. It was a complete eye-opener for me that's now seeming like it was something obvious all along. So I will say that this can definitely help shift your perspective from someplace negative to positive.
At first, one's impressions of the narrator of this book are that he's a complete asshole and a compulsive liar. Then you realize a better description would be to imagine an addict, one week into recovery, who becomes convinced he has all the answers and is ready to share them with others (almost as if he's a self-help author who has a book due), instead of having just taken the first steps to recovery.
Another one where three stars is a compromise for me. I was reading this book with clients in mind, wondering as I read whether I could suggest it to young people who are struggling with authenticity, motivations and boundaries in their relationships.
For clients who wouldn't be bothered by Miller's frequent references to a deity and Jesus, I think Scary Close could be a good intro to common ways people use each other psychologically and why many people find themselves having the same relationship over and over with different people. For readers who haven't read a lot about unhealthy relationships, Miller's conversational tone and not-healthier-than-thou approach might work well to show them where the negative patterns he describes may be at work in their own connections .
That said, Miller's writing, which felt fresh to me when I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, now reminds me of an oily film coloring the surface of water--looks like a rainbow, but it's not. He makes me wonder if he ever has a conversation with a 'regular' person--a person who doesn't qualify for name-dropping, who isn't amazingly talented at something Miller finds networkable, and who doesn't have all day to sit around and discuss Donald Miller's hangups. His "aw, shucks" revelatory style feels like a schtick at this point, a performance embedded with hyperlinks to bands he likes, businesses he supports, and whiskey. He really wants us to know about the whiskey.
So. For clients who might benefit from having Miller as a 101-level tour guide to new ideas about inner performers and standard relational grenades, I'd give the book four stars--it's an easy read and it has a story arc that may lead readers forward who otherwise would stall out. But as either a memoir or as a how-to, I'd give it two stars. There's not enough detail for a how-to; he describes his changes without really stating how he made them happen. And as a memoir it's short on real feeling and long on sales-y smarm. So, three stars.
I wish I could recommend this book. I liked Blue Like Jazz, even loved A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. While I appreciated Miller's introspective perspective on intimacy, I can only describe this book as "icky." The name dropping was a major turnoff, and Miller himself comes across as borderline narcissistic. A better read on the subject of intimacy would be Andy Stanley's New Rules of Love, Sex, and Dating.
So let me start off with a clarifier: I am not a big Donald Miller fan. I feel like his books are too light-weight, too airy, have no spiritual depth. I feel like after reading them I know more about Donald, but honestly have not learned much more than that. Which is fine if he is writing biography, but when his purpose is to write more than that, there is a disconnect somewhere.
A second clarifier for this book would be that I don't really feel like it applies to me. I'm not trying to sound cocky or proud, but I feel like this book was written for people who struggle with relationships... struggle with connecting on a deeper level with people. And quite frankly, I just don't feel that is me. Can I improve in my relationships? Of course. But if this book, which heavily revolves around his relationship with his now wife, is written with that kind of relationship in mind, I would much sooner recommend other books for marriage (Sacred Marriage, You and me Forever, The Mingling of Souls, etc.) He writes this book about his dysfunctional difficulty with finding intimacy and maintaining it, his struggle with being honest and not putting up a front. And again, I just don't struggle with this. Now, there are plenty other areas I struggle with, so let's be clear about that.
Let me start with the good, what I appreciated and gleaned from this book. I completely agree with his message of dropping the act... of ending our efforts to appear perfect, looking like we have it all together. Sure, there are days when I feel confident that I have "it" together. But there are probably just as many days when I don't and I admit that. I loved his use of stories from people in his life.... most notably Paul and Kim Young. Their story was beautiful... not every aspect obviously, but the lessons learned and how their family took a bad thing and created such a beautiful end... so encouraging, so inspiring. The honesty that won out in that relationship was such a breath of fresh air. And so I agree with Donald wholeheartedly that honesty in relationships is crucial. I also liked his emphasis on accepting people as they are, not being caught up in our accomplishments: "Those of us who are never satisfied with our accomplishments secretly believe nobody will love us unless we are perfect." "Those who can't accept their imperfections can't accept grace either." Beautiful!!!
I also liked his thoughts on focusing on other people (though coming from him, I feel like he needs to take his own advice sometimes as he is constantly talking about himself). "God doesn't give us crying, pooping children because he wants to advance our careers. He gives them to us for the same reason he confused language at the Tower of Babel, to create chaos and deter us from investing too much energy in the gluttonous idols of self-absorption."
There are a few other good points I extracted from the book, but let me move on to why I did not care for this book overall. As I mentioned before, Donald writes fluff. Need an example: "The whole experience makes me wonder if the time we spend trying to become somebody people will love isn't wasted because the most powerful, must attractive person we can be is who we already are, an ever-changing being that is becoming and will never arrive, but has opinions about what is seen along the journey." First, what does that even mean. Second, are you serious? The person we already are is the best person we can be? There's no room for improvement? And isn't the point of a journey to arrive somewhere?
What about this one: "I'm starting to wonder if that's not the whole point of life, to be thankful for it and to live in such a way others are thankful for theirs as well." Ok, I agree that we should be thankful for life. But the whole point of life is the be thankful for it? The whole point of life should be to make much of God... to bring him glory. The whole point of life should be to bring other people to the desire to bring glory to God. Which leads me to another complaint I have about Donald... he is spiritually shallow. Where are the scripture references? Where is the scriptural depth? Where is the pointing to our heavenly Father? If you're gonna write a book about intimate relationships, couldn't you find a good model for that in the Bible to use instead of just an onslaught of your thoughts and opinions?
But honestly, all of my criticisms are overshadowed by the second to last chapter in the book. What is Donald's overall conclusion in regard to relationships, specifically intimate relationships, even more specifically the most intimate relationship, between a husband and wife? "'Just ask yourself if you are happy and what you want in a relationship and that's it. What's going on in other people's minds is none of your business.'" That's a quote from someone he sought counsel from. He goes on to say that he believes he should hold his spouse "loosely... if she wants to leave she can go. I'm responsible for my own health and happiness and I'm responsible to ask what I want in a relationship." "I love Betsy more than any woman I've ever met and I believe I always will."
Love loosely? I agree that we should not be "codependent." The only person you should NEED in life is God... but to just say nonchalantly that if your spouse wants to leave you let them walk away? You don't put up a fight? You just let them leave? What happened to the "two become one flesh"? And since when did marriage become only about the happiness of one another? What if God created marriage more to make us holy than to make us happy? What about, as Matt Chandler describes it, the "Mingling of souls." Love loosely? And to say that you think you will always love her more than another? Where is the determination? Where is the connection?
I'm not trying to be romantic and sentimental here, I'm not trying to say you force your will on another person, or try to change them. Not at all what I'm saying. But what about living for someone besides yourself? When you say the things that Donald says about you being responsible for your own happiness and such things, you are focusing inwards. The focus should always be others focused. Outwards. Living for not just the happiness of someone else, but the holiness. Iron sharpens iron. Building one another up, encouraging, challenging, convicting. Read 1 Corinthians 13 at least once through. Love loosely? Nowhere do you find a solid marriage or relationship where people love loosely. You know where you find people who love loosely? Divorce court. The perfect example of an intimate relationship, the one we should seek to model even if we will fall short of mimicking, is that of Christ for the Church. You see this over and over again pictured in the Bible. And I can guarantee you one thing: Jesus never loved loosely.
Very conflicted on this. On the one hand, a new Donald Miller book always feels like reconnecting with an old friend, and SCARY CLOSE provides nourishing food for thought on the subject of self-identity and relationships. On the other hand, the repetition in Miller's books is starting to grate on me. Sure, they all have different themes and are quotable for different reasons, but every single one of them is a memoir. All six in a row! (Not counting the one on marketing.) And all of them are centered around his continual search for meaning and belonging. But just when you think he's finally gotten his life pretty well sorted out, blam-o! A new book comes out, and we're back to square one. A good rule of thumb: If you've written more memoirs than William Shatner, you've written too many memoirs. The cynical part of me suspects that Miller sticks with the memoir format because it enables him to just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. "Maybe such and such is the case." "My good friend believes so and so is important." "I read a book that suggested this, that, and the other thing." All that is fine up to a point, but none of it can substitute for actual research. It doesn't help that Donald Miller seemingly chose to write SCARY CLOSE during the honeymoon phase of his new marriage, when romance and good feelings are pretty much at their peak. One wonders whether, five years and two kids down the road, Mr. Miller will still say with a straight face that his wife never exaggerates, never acts judgmental in any way, and has no stomach for melodrama. In fact, I predict his next book will be about how having kids sent his marriage into a tailspin that only God could help him pull out of. I hope I'm wrong. But it might not be the best idea to write a book on relationships until you've successfully been in one for more than a couple years. Just a thought. Also, it really bothered me when Miller stated that his previous books were written under some kind of guise in order to win readers' approval. Since Miller's biggest selling point was always his perceived forthrightness and candor, this didn't sit well with me at all. Apparently, though, Miller considers SCARY CLOSE his first unflinchingly honest book. But since I can't find much about his writing that's actually changed, the difference escapes me. There are a bunch of things I liked about the book, as well. Unlike a lot of people, I appreciate the balance he strikes between making the book "too Christian" and "not Christian enough." The whole notion of "just be yourself" has been done to death a million times over, but Miller somehow gets new mileage out of it, regardless. I don't struggle with relationships in the same way he does, but I can see how the book would have a very positive impact on those who do. Please, Mr. Miller, continue writing more books, but please, please, please vary it up a little more from time to time.
From the publisher: After decades of failed relationships and painful drama, Donald Miller decided he’d had enough. Impressing people wasn’t helping him connect with anyone. He’d built a life of public isolation, yet he dreamed of meaningful relationships. So at forty years old he made a scary decision: to be himself no matter what it cost. From the author of Blue Like Jazz comes a book about the risk involved in choosing to impress fewer people and connect with more, about the freedom that comes when we stop acting and start loving. It is a story about knocking down old walls to create a healthy mind, a strong family, and a satisfying career. And it all feels like a conversation with the best kind of friend: smart, funny, true, important. Scary Close is Donald Miller at his best.
I first discovered Donald Miller because my brother is a huge fan. After reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller I was certain I wanted to read more of his work. I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to review Scary Close.
I finished this book in a little over a day. I couldn't stop reading it. I now want to go back and re-read each chapter more slowly and let the ideas sink in. But the first time around I had to keep reading, keep seeing where it was going.
Recently God has been trying to teach me about vulnerability and relationships and I believe He placed this in my hands to read. Life is about relationships, the good and bad ones. Relationships are what makes up the adventures and pivotal times in our lives. Casual, business, family, etc. Each has an important part to play in our lives. Donald Miller is vulnerable about his weakness and selfishness as a human. He tells a memoir that will resonate with you in one way or another. Your story won't look exactly like his but you will be able to glean wisdom about how to have intimacy in relationships in a healthy way. And also how to look for healthy people to have those relationships with.
In the acknowledgements section he says that his goal was to tell a collective story that would connect us to one another. To me that is exactly what happened in this book. I don't know Donald Miller but through his book I was able to connect to his story. In so many ways it is my story. And your story. He wrote that the connection of the collective story has been healing for him and he is thankful. What I want to say is that the story was healing for me--and I am so thankful.
I highly recommend this book.
I received this book free from BookLookBloggers in exchange for my honest review.
If you pre-order Scary Close you will get Blue Like Jazz audio book FREE as well as the Scary Close soundtrack FREE. Even if you didn't get those for free it would be worth it. Go pre-order it now!
I'd been wanting to read this book for a couple years. When I was younger, I felt like I had a hard time with relationships, because I couldn't figure out how to "be myself." Who even was "myself"? So I think I expected to deeply relate to this book.
However, I found as I read it, I didn't relate to him much at all. There were definitely some really good nuggets in the book, but all in all, I didn't relate to it much. I did keep thinking to myself "he has GOT to be an Enneagram 3," so for you 3's out there, maybe this would be soul-shaking for you?
However, even so, I wasn't a fan of what I felt like were vague, wishy-washy terms and standards, like continually using the terms "healthy" and "unhealthy" people and relationships. Sometimes he would say "manipulative" or "dramatic" and I appreciated that, but when people continually say "healthy" and "unhealthy," it bothers me because what do those terms even mean? I feel like they are words to hide behind.
Secondly, I felt like God was mostly absent from his transformation. God played a small role, but he seems to mainly attribute his salvation to his wife.
I felt like he definitely had very real sins and issues and he is very grateful to have learned and grown, but the real truth as to how any of us could overcome those problems is not by "becoming healthy," but by realizing we are received and loved by God completely in spite of our "unhealthiness." I guess I don't understand how someone can profess Christianity, and then give so little credit and acknowledgement to God's role in his transformation. Yes, God plays a role in this book, but completely a bit part.
By the way, in my own life, honestly, the thing that helped me to "be myself" in relationships was to stop thinking about myself, and stop trying to figure out who "myself" was, and to just enjoy the moment. It makes me think of that C.S. Lewis quote, "humility is not thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less."
Donald Miller has many more well-known books, but this was my first one by him. I just needed it at the time. It ended up being a lot of what I wanted from Daring Greatly by Brene Brown but didn't get—a relatable story of someone who struggles with vulnerability and how they've been able to make mind-shifts to move past that. My biggest beef with it was that it was too short. It felt half-baked and it didn't have to be. There was a lot of good, refreshing material but it often stopped prematurely at the surface. I did feel genuinely challenged by this book, though. It's somewhere between memoir and self-help, but if you struggle with being vulnerable, forming meaningful relationships, and "public isolation" like Miller does (or like I do), you'll find his stories relatable, helpful, and healing. (...Maybe especially if you're a 3 on the Enneagram, which I am not, and which I could tell Miller was by the third page. I'm sorry, I had to say it.)
"I don't trust people to accept who I am in process. I'm the kind of person who wants to present my most honest, authentic self to the world—so I hide backstage and rehearse honest and authentic lines until the curtain opens. I only say this because the same personality trait that made me a good writer also made me terrible at relationships. You can only hide backstage for so long."
I read the first Chapter and was hooked into thinking this is going to be a great piece of work. I looked excitedly at the table of contents and saw that it was a short book and would be a relatively quick read. So I game planned a savoring-type strategy. I would read only a little a day in order to make this wonderful topic last and treat it like a little treasure. The further I got into the book the more I realized this was far from the five star impression I originally had. I took a while to write this review because my original intent after reading it was to hurl a bunch of personal negatives his way. That would have been unfair. Miller is a talented writer and every now and again in this book there is a sentence or two that remind you that he is an artist. Unfortunately most of the book is fluff that's filled with him trying to associate himself too closely with other important people. He didn't need to do that. The irony of this book is that its about authenticity and he came across as having an identity that is formed through association. But, perhaps like most of us his insecurities turn up when we are trying to hide them the most. I get it. I have my own insecurities too. He could have condensed the book to 25 meaningful pages and made it a chapter of another book or something. So in summary, I paid $12 for the book and I would like about $8 back.
Short review: I both thought this was very good and a bit cliche. Donald Miller has a way of saying things that are really fairly simple, but in profound ways. But also saying simple things that I would think should not need to be said (but probably do.)
The real issue of the book is that we often hide from ourselves and others and in hiding we hinder real intimacy. I have a problem with this and was inspired by it. But I was also a bit annoyed a parts too. Not really sure what annoyed me except the fact that I felt like some of this should have been learned already. I have read all of his previous books, so when you have a career of sharing what you have learned about yourself, at some point it seems that some of that learning needs to take hold a little better.
I thought I was reading this book for the first time, but as the entire thing rang with familiarity, I concluded otherwise.🤷♀️ I enjoyed it so much, I’m sure I will read it again--apparently for the 3rd time.😅
“We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.”
“If honesty is the key to intimacy, it means we don’t have to be perfect and, moreover, we don’t have to pretend to be perfect.”
Is it fair to rate a book that I didn't come close to finishing? I don't know, but here is the thing: Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life is one of my favorite books, ever. It has become the foundation of my way of life, of thinking about life as the writing of a story - one hopefully worth telling. But after being gifted and falling in love with the brilliance of that book, I had gone back and read his earlier book, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, and it was awful. Okay, maybe not awful, but so strikingly unreflected in his notions of gender norms and identity. For a book that managed to wrestle with questions of God (which is to say, someone will to ask hard questions), it struck me as ludicrous that he failed to question where his understanding of gender roles came from, and instead talked about 'what women want' and 'how men think' as if these were unchanging realities and not socially-scripted, learned normative behaviors. Why am I mentioning all of this here? Because I started reading Scary Close, and within a few sentences he already managed to make me realize that nothing about this limited worldview has changed since his writing of Blue Like Jazz over a decade ago. One of the first sentences talks about how he didn't like a friend of his wife and stated that "she might have better luck with me if she didn't constantly try to emasculate them." Does he even realize what he is saying here? Does he realize that masculinity is a social construct? That to disdain this friend's willingness to not adhere to patronizing male-female scripts is perhaps a brave endeavor? In any case, I realized that I loved his concept of life-as-story, but don't think I care about the Donald Miller who happened to write that book and don't really want to spend my time reading a book that is guaranteed to be infuriating in this regard.
I really had to keep forcing myself to keep picking up this book.
At first I found the story interesting. Man who acknowledges that he's not perfect, talks about his problems with true intimacy through lots of anecdotes, but mostly in talking about his Betsy.
Then we just find out over and over again what a paragon this Betsy is (and who knows, perhaps she is?) to the point where I start to get annoyed and just want him to focus back on the topic at hand - that is the topic of intimacy and how to accomplish it.
I'm not sure I came away with any kind of clear how - to. There are no exercises, just a lot of talk about needing intimacy, about opening up, and being more in the moment with a person. About what's important. I'll give the book three stars for building awareness of the problem in a way that's easy to understand.
But now that we're aware of the problem, the question is what to do about it. We can't all afford the retreat he went on, nor are we lucky enough to have the mentors the author was blessed with. What can a person with finite resources and friends that are most likely as messed up in this area as they are - really do?
Other than, of course, open up and be intimate. And decide what's important.
Yeah. That's simple enough.
*bangs head on desk*
And I'm almost tempted to subtract a star for the muddled bits about God and how we can't ever achieve intimacy with him on Earth. I kind of get where he's going, but it's about as confused as his wedding speech. I think he would have benefitted from taking a little more time to think through what he's thinking there. I felt like he's still not clear, like he's on the cusp of some great understanding.
I hope he finds it.
But on the other hand, there's a free soundtrack you can download. Yay, free music!
What’s revolutionary about Don’s approach is not that he gives new information or achieves an unmatched level of brilliancy in his writing; rather, it’s that he admits to every human weakness he speaks about. I would say Don is unmatched in his painful honesty. But it’s this very honesty that makes his book impactful. Because the truth is, we are often like Don. You will nod and cringe at many of Don’s infamous personal confessions, knowing you've been in the same boat. While the thought of being utterly exposed is terrifying, through Don’s testimony (and the testimony of several others he includes in the book) you can see how it is worth it, because that is the only way to experience intimacy.
I love how Don uses the language of the world, yet the concepts of eternity. This makes his book extremely relatable because it deals with the here-and-now, but not without pointing to the necessary "more" to which this world constantly calls. I will not let anyone borrow this book. You need to get it for yourself.
Favorite Don Millerisms:
“Grace only sticks to our imperfections.” (45)
“[A]ttraction isn’t intimacy.” (65)
“The most powerful, most attractive person we can be is who we already are.” (148-149)
“What if part of God’s message to the world was you? The true and real you?” (149)
“If a man has no sense of meaning…he will numb himself with pleasure.” (182)
“There’s truth in the idea we’re never going to be perfect in love but we can get close.” (225)
“Love is not a game any of us can win, it’s just a story we can live and enjoy.” (225)
At the core of this book is an important message, or a series of important and incisive points which almost coalesce into an important message, but for me this was obscured, chipped away at, and blunted by a number of aspects relating to the author and the way he was trying to put across his personal insight.
I picked up the book expecting a more general examination of men's psychology and sociology, and a discussion on the barriers to finding intimacy and contentment in relationships. The first third of the book met these expectations in part, but the remainder - once it became clear this was mainly a self-centred memoir of Miller's own issues and how he addressed them, and less about the general field of intimacy and relationships - disappointed me and became more and more unengaging.
My main problems related to increasing feeling of a lack of common ground with the author. There were yawning cultural gaps between his American POV and my British viewpoint (surprisingly so - this rarely occurs to me as an issue when I read other American authors). The privileged position in which the narrator found himself, with significant resources of money, time, and the support of a huge number of tolerant, patient and insightful friends, isn't something that the vast majority of 'normal' people could call on in his circumstances - it felt slightly cheesy. Finally, the journey relied more and more on Miller's Christian faith throughout the book, which utterly alienated me. This was a shame, as the smattering of intriguing noteworthy points within the book ended up buried.
Donald Miller does it again. He frets that the maturation in his life has brought him to spend less time alone, and this may account for the shorter book as he has broadened his world to include a wife and a company. But, in which by this experience, he says more by saying less.
he is a little more serious, a little more sober. He doesn't go as far afield for his illustrations, choosing instead unknown flinching look at himself whether or not this impresses the reader – or the writer. But because Donald Miller goes through this, we can to. Because he lays out the patterns in his life that had to be ditched in order to live out the next chapter of the adventure God has for him, we can do this also. We may not be the semifamous writer, as Miller describes himself, but we do retreat to isolation and safe ground. Incidentally, we missed the vulnerability of being ourselves, just ourselves, before other people.
Reading this little book, combined with the advice of an adolescent outsider in The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, has made me more committed to put effort into my relationships, to admit need, and to be depended on. That's a lot to accomplish in such a short book.
This is the kind of book one reads and rereads. And then encourages everyone to read. Donald Miller holds nothing back. He is vulnerable and real as he intentionally begins to seek out others who make him better at relationship. And he takes us along with him and challenges us to do the same, to not settle for our broken ways and habits with others. He also spends a lot of time discussing the roles we play and why. This was life-giving for me to read about how we are not our jobs, our titles. I’ve been learning this for some time, but it’s so countercultural to see ourselves as anything other than what we DO. Having finished the book, I am challenged now to love without condition and to be more aware of how role playing and manipulation shape so many of our daily interactions.
"It's better to have somebody who is more in love with you than impressed by you."
Parents who are open and honest with their kids create an environment in which children are allowed to be human.
Stop worrying about what other people are thinking. That will drive you crazy. Just ask yourself if you're happy and what you want in a relationship. That's it. What's going on in other people's minds is none of your business.