How Good do we Have to Be?

Title: How Good do we Have to Be? A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness
Author: Harold Kushner
Publisher: Little, Brown, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Year: Boston
Available: and

Most of the books reviewed on CreatedGay.Com are books written by gay Christians, or written specifically for gay Christians. This book is written by Rabbi Harold Kushner. The intended audience is not gay people. How Good Do We Have to Be? is reviewed, because the book is about guilt and forgiveness. Guilt and forgiveness are very important topics for gay people.

Gay and bisexual people may find themselves struggling with forgiving themselves for being gay. Painful rejection by family members causes deep scars, so queer people find themselves needing to forgive people who are supposed to love them. Because of systemic discrimination and persecution, sexual minorities may need to forgive more often than straight people.

Harold Kushner encourages people to see mistakes as what happens as we learn how to do things right, not as “emblems of our unworthiness.” By seeing mistakes as a part of learning, we are better able to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes and to forgive people when they make mistakes.

Kushner feels saying God will stop loving us or send us to hell because of our sins is really saying God’s love is conditional and tentative. To Kushner, when Christianity and Judaism are properly taught and understood, religious expectations are reasonable, and there is a picture of a loving God. Healthy religion welcomes people, with all of their imperfections. Good religion encourages us to do better, instead of condemning us for making mistakes. Kushner makes a very important distinction when he observes that God might be disappointed by somethings we do, but God is not disappointed in who we are. When we understand God’s love is constant enough to outlast disappointments, we can better forgive parents for having unrealistic expectations.

Kushner looks at forgiveness and guilt in the different life roles. He examines guilt and forgiveness in the relationships between children and their parents, and between parents and their children. Teenagers, young adults, middle-aged people, and senior citizens can find this book relevant, challenging, and helpful.