Steve Leder, More Beautiful Than Before; How Suffering Transforms Us (New York: Hay House, 2017), 197pp.
"To be human is to suffer," writes Steve Leder. I was reminded of this painful truth by two friends recently — one of them is grieving the suicide of his son, the other just left her spouse after thirty years of marriage. The list is long: the death of a child, recurring cancer, financial ruin, a bitter divorce.
In this helpful little handbook, Leder considers our human suffering in twenty-two short chapters that are organized around three successive themes: surviving, healing, and growing. He never glorifies suffering, as if any amount of pain is worth some lesson learned, and he knows full well that some people are destroyed by it. Nonetheless, it is also true that "pain is an invitation to those of us who survive the suffering to become kinder, better people." Through our brokenness we can become "more beautiful than before."
Steve Leder is the Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the oldest Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, with roots that date back to 1851, and also one of the largest, with three campuses and 7,000 members. On two occasions he has been named one of the ten most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek. His book is a practical guide that draws upon his pastoral experiences of thirty years: "it's my phone that rings when people's bodies or lives fall apart." In addition, and as you would expect, he appeals to the ancient wisdom of his Jewish tradition. Perhaps most helpful of all, he relates his own experinces of personal suffering.
For more on this important subject, see my review of the book by the Duke University historian Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved (New York: Random House, 2018), 178pp.