Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Good books touch our hearts. Great books kick us in the butt, and phenomenal books punch us in the mouth. Leadership and Self-Deception is a phenomenal book. Now I’ve mentioned this book on many occasions, but according to Amazon sales, it still remains on the outside of Amazon’s top one hundred books. And that is just not good enough! And so allow me to give you four reasons why this book ought to find its way to the top of your reading list.
First, while it sounds like a business book and talks a lot about business, it is not a business book. And while leadership is in the title and talks a lot about leading, it is not a leadership book. In fact, it is a novel about how we fail to love and honor the people in our lives (we think we love them just fine and that they are the problem, but we are self-deceived). And while this is not To Kill a Mockingbird, it is more than compelling enough as a story to keep you wondering what is going to happen next (even though there is no one comparable to Boo Radley).
Second, while it is not a “Christian book,” it confronts us with our lack of love for others. It confronts us with our sin. And that means that while it may not know it, it is most definitely a “Christian book.” In fact, it forces us to wrestle with all sorts of relational sins: things like pride, selfishness, hypocrisy, self-righteousness and blame-shifting. In other words, it is very relevant to where we all live. In fact, I would argue that this would make a great book for a small group to read and discuss. And it might be good for couples to read. He could underline things in red that she is not doing, and she could underline the whole book figuring he’s not doing any of it. The kicker is that we are both guilty of doing many of these sins, but we are so self-deceived that we can’t see it. This book helps us take off those blinders and exposes us to a whole new way of living and loving.
Third, any book that can put a practical handle on how we can love others better is worth its weight in gold. The big idea of the book is rather straightforward, but quite profound: “treat people as if they are people, not as if they are objects.” When we see people only as a means to get our needs met, we are failing in our call to love our neighbor as ourselves. But books on love often fall short. They become too complex, too schmaltzy, too theoretical or written in five unknown love languages. But this book is real. We can see ourselves in its characters, and we can identify with their sin all too easily. Far from being impractical, this book is a very relevant guide on how to love; and that is a rarity.
Last, we talk a lot about justification by faith, about how we don’t have to earn our righteousness, but simply receive it as a free gift from God through Jesus’ crosswork. But sadly, we spend most of our time trying to justify our own existence, thinking that if we can work hard enough and can blame others for any struggles that come our way, then we should be declared righteous based on our own goodness. This book strips us of such thinking and leads us like the law to see our great need and opens our hearts to Christ’s gift. One reviewer said, “Upon finishing this book, I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning.” Who knew grace could come to us in the form of a book on leadership and self-deception?
Apparently, Mike Tyson was quite the orator (and who knew that?). In one of his other famous sayings, he quipped: “I’m a dreamer. I have to dream and reach for the stars; and if I miss a star, then I grab a handful of clouds.” This book reaches for the stars; but even if it is not as good as I believe it is, it still is a life-changing book. And change, even in how we see and love others, is very possible. Case in point: Mike Tyson said, “I ain’t the same person I was when I bit that guy’s ear off.” I guess what I’m trying to say is this: if he can change and Rocky IV can change, then everybody can change. I think that is true; but who knows, maybe I am self-deceived.