In Defense of Self-Help Books

This is a guest post by Alicia Hope Wagner. She is a novelist, devotional writer, and poet. She blogs at Faith Imagined and is active on Twitter.

I once heard a person say in a disdainful tone, “I don’t read ‘self-help’ books.” With this seemingly innocuous verdict, he slammed the door on a multitude of voices eager to push him to God’s best for his life.

A Young Woman Reading Alone - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Maica, Image #12887821

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Maica

He severely limited his exposure to wise counselors and leaders available to him. And he drew a curtain across a world of extraordinary and supernatural influence.

I wanted to argue the point, but the task was too daunting for a moment in passing. The sad truth, though, is that many people share this man’s opinion: They don’t need to read books written by people whose sole focus is to edify, encourage and motivate them. In effect, what these people are suggesting is that they don’t need mentors.

Mentors are the editors of our lives. Without many of them, we will never have a polished vision that is able to change the world. Our visions will grow beyond our immediate circumstances. If we whole-heartily run our visions toward the end-zone, we will exhaust our own experience, knowledge and abilities. Therefore, we must surround ourselves with mentors to help us successfully, efficiently, and confidently bring our visions to fruition.

I can honestly say that I have a very influential circle of friends. I have their knowledge, life experiences and passions bundled up nicely in books stacked throughout my home. I’ve had insightful pillow-talk with Max Lucado. I’ve chatted with Donald Miller at my local café. I’ve had life-changing discourse with T.D. Jakes on my back porch. I’ve laughed with Shelia Walsh while relaxing at the beach. And I’ve stayed up late while Ben Carson told me his life story. I have an amazing group of mentors, and I get excited whenever I bring a new one home.

Although my ultimate mentor is Christ and my sole resource is the Bible, I know that God also provides me with “many advisers” for my success (see Proverbs 15:22). Leaders don’t write books for fame, money or fun; they write books because they have a passion to influence lives.

If you are about to abandon your vision or on the verge of settling for a lesser one, I encourage you to go buy a book. Find an author who is living out his dreams, and you will obtain valuable knowledge that can be applied to your own situation.

Books are your mentors. The more you read, the more prepared you will be to cultivate and achieve your vision. Make time to read. Seek wise counselors. Gain new perspectives. Glean deep insights. Surround yourself with people who have achieved the impossible, and they will direct you to your own victory.

You become who you hang out with, so hang out with life-changers, and your life will be changed. Read. You will never be the same.

Question: Who are some of your favorite mentors?
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