Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 06:1 (Nov 1943)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Harry Emerson Fosdick: On Being A Real Person. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1943. xvi, 295. $2.50.

By his very choice of title for this his most recent book the well-known liberal pastor of the Riverside Church of New York has struck a high note of pertinence as well as of popularity. This is true in the first place because being a real person is of momentous concern to most men and women. But more particularly the pertinence of the title lies in the fact that the failure to attain real personality is precisely the woeful fault of scores of those troubled folk with whom Dr. Fosdick has dealt — “some mildly disturbed, others distracted, unhappy, fissured personalities” (p. x). To be a real person, that is, to be what one’s native endowments and limitations determine in large measure that he shall be, and to be just that without apology or fear but rather with whole-hearted acceptance, clear purposiveness and effective use — that is no small attainment.

This is a most intriguing theme, and we shall do well to listen to a shrewd observer like Dr. Fosdick as he tells us about his findings during twenty years of intensive personal counseling and about the principles that have guided him in his efforts to help troubled folk out of their inner chaos and ineffectuality into the order and effectiveness of real persons.

Our appetities are whetted not only by this intriguing theme but also by the aptly phrased chapter headings. Some of these arresting captions are: “Shouldering Responsibility for Ourselves”, “What Being a Real Person Means”, “Getting Oneself Off One’s Hands”, “Handling Our Mischievous Consciences”, “Using All There Is in Us”, “The Practical Use of Faith”. Such chapter headings invite our acute interest, for we feel that they promise a candid look at life as men and women live it or as the author feels they ought to live it.

Permeating these very readable studies in the business of living is a strain of sound common sense and psychological perspicacity. In fact, there are many indications that Fosdick is worth listening to on matters of this sort, more so than on questions of theology proper. His psychological

awareness is patent in his appreciation of the methods the mind of man uses to escape from, or camouflage, his own failures and inadequacies. In the chapter on “The Principle of Self-Acceptance” Fosdick describes the methods men use to escape the sense of inferiority that haunts so many folk. He speaks of the “smoke-screen method”, by which such a person seeks to cover up his inferiority by assuming a boastful and belligerent manner or by using the “sour grapes” technique, calling so...

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