Paul Eden; self-published, 2020, (p195) ISBN 978-0-473-53113-3
Kindness. Perhaps once seen by society as weak and insignificant, this character trait has assumed a much higher, more critical profile in recent years. “Be kind”, after all, was an oft-repeated admonishment from New Zealand’s Prime Minister and COVID-19 response team during our tense and contentious 2020 lockdown periods.
Paul Eden’s book Relentless Kindness is written from his firsthand experience of Christian ministry burnout. Following a lengthy nursing career, Eden spent 25 years as a pastor. But, as he relates, “in the middle of 2016 I ground to a halt. I had no choice. I couldn’t function anymore. I became overwhelmed with grief and anger.”
He writes the book principally for individuals and churches on both sides of the burnout phenomenon. It is for those who have experienced it, or are at risk of doing so in the future, and for their loved ones. And it is also for elders, parish councils and leadership groups, who can play a vital role in the early detection and prevention of ministry burnout.
His book debunks the myth that all we need do to avoid burnout is to learn emotional resilience. While not negating the benefit and importance of developing self-care techniques, he squarely makes the case for reliance on the presence of God—and God’s strength, peace and wisdom—to sustain ourselves. In fact, Eden makes it clear that even our ability to show kindness can only come from understanding and experiencing God’s relentless kindness for ourselves.
It is this treatment of resilience vs reliance and the necessity of accepting God’s amazing grace that make this book suitable reading even for those outside of Christian ministry. The addition of short reflective and discussion questions at the end of each chapter enable people to engage further with the points raised.
The book is personable, accessible and, one would think, timely, considering the extra pressures that things like a global pandemic and political and economic challenges have placed on us all. Right now, this world needs to experience kindness, the sort of courageous kindness that is both God-inspired and God-enabled.
As presenter Tricia Hendry commented in an article she wrote for the Baptist magazine in December 2017, “Jesus’ own examples show us kindness is never weak or passive: it empowers. His version of kindness was proactive and radical: it changed lives.”
May we all find the “joy and peace of relentless kindness” that Eden talks about in his book. And may lives be changed as a result.
Reviewer: Linda Grigg