Let Your Life Speak

Parker Palmer has written one of the most honest, provocative and truly helpful books regarding vocation.  While taking a brutally candid journey through his battle with depression, he leads us along the narrow road, coaching us through “listening” to our lives as the primary path to discover and walk in our vocation.  And in doing so, he not only identifies the ability of our potential to guide us, but even more, our limitations.  While I differ in a few categories (like the unfortunate reality he is a pacifist), the wisdom and sage-ness of Life fought for and cultivated through suffering earns my deepest respect and admiration.  Palmer takes a candid and accessible approach into the honest journey from the false self to the true self.  It’s a book laden with depth, breadth, and guideposts to help us find our way home when we are lost at sea.

Here are a handful of quotes from the book to give you a taste:

“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you… Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening.  I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like it to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.”

“as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.'”

“Vocation at its deepest level is, ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but are nonetheless compelling.”

“Anytime we listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

“The punishment imposed on us for claiming the true self can never be worse than the punishment we impose on ourselves by failing to make that claim. And the converse is true as well; no reward anyone might give us could possibly be greater than the reward that comes from living by our own best lights.”

“Every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

“Despite the American myth, I cannot be or do whatever I desire – a truism, to be sure, but a truism we often defy. Our created natures make us like organisms in an ecosystem; there are some roles and relationships in which we thrive and others in which we wither and die.”

“If I try to be or do something noble that has nothing to do with who I am, I may look good to others and to myself for a while. But the fact that I am exceeding my limits will eventually have consequences.”

“It took me a long time to understand that although everyone needs to be loved, I cannot be the source of that gift to everyone who asks me for it. There are some relations in which I am capable of love and others in which I am not. To pretend otherwise, to put out promissory notes I am unable to honor, is to damage my own integrity and that of the person in need – all in the name of love.”

“When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless – a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. That kind of giving is not  only loveless but faithless, based on the arrogant and mistaken notion that God has no way of channeling love to the other except through me. Yes, we are created in and for community to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.”

“There is as much guidance in way that closes behind us as there is in way that opens ahead of us.”

“If we are to live our lives fully and well, we must learn to embrace the opposites, to live in a creative tension between our limits and our potentials. We must honor our limitations in ways that do not distort our nature, and we must trust and use our gifts in ways that fulfill the potentials God gave us. We must take the no of the way that closes and find the guidance it has to offer – and take the yes of the way that opens and respond with the yes of our lives.”

“I now know that anything one can do on behalf of the true self is done ultimately in the service of others.”

There is so much more goodness in these pages.  Check it out for yourself if you want to go deeper…

Below is the Amazon description for Let Your Life Speak:

With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and purpose. Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others who have made a difference, he shares insights gained from darkness and depression as well as fulfillment and joy, illuminating a pathway toward vocation for all who seek the true calling of their lives. 

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