Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book Review: "To Be Perfectly Honest" -- an inspirational endorsement for truth-telling

Author: Phil Callaway, 2011. (Multnomah Books) 

I  must confess I had never heard of Phil Callaway before, but the premise of this book sounded intriguing: humorist Callaway commited to telling the truth for an entire year and to journal about this "adventure". Since he is a speaker and writer, he travels a lot and interacts with many people, strangers and audience members, as well as church members and family. This was sure to be an engaging ride.

Now, a year of telling the truth sounds easy. After all, those of us who are Christian, even those of us who simply claim to be moral, would say we are committed to truth-telling. But as soon as someone asks how we're doing and we answer "Fine" when inner turmoil rages, we realize how easily we slip into little white lies and social sinning that everyone expects.

The book is pretty thin and an easy read. Written in journal fashion with several days to a page, it is not as funny as I had expected. Oh, there are some laugh out loud moments (such as his interaction with Mormons where he pretends to be deaf even though he is listening to his iPod), and some humorous ongoing episodes of email correspondence (one with a spammer offering him millions of dollars if he will help her, which most of us would have simply deleted). But it comes across as light entertainment rather than gut-busting hilarity.

The epilogue is perhaps the most interesting, where Callaway reflects on this experiment after it is all over. What did he learn?
For starters, I'm more honest in prayer. This thing about trying to impress God was laughable. . .  I speak the truth more speedily now, less concerned with what people say about me when I'm out of earshot. . . And finally, after completing a year of truth-telling, I'm much more aware of my flaws and weaknesses. . . . What I've found is that there is a God who smiles, a God who still loves me. With his help, I've decided to extend the deadline on this truth vow another fifty years.
As a comedic book, it only partially succeeds. It is not funny enough to be considered true comedy. As an inspiration for others to be better truth-tellers, it hits a home run. Callaway's self-deprecating humor paints a tighter picture than a 100 moralizing sermons. I came away wanting to do a truth-telling experiment of my own. Perhaps that is the true purpose of the book!

Note: I received a free copy from Waterbrook Publishing but was not influenced to provide a positive review.

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