'This book reminds us that it is the quality of our relationships that, more than anything else, determines our happiness, fulfilment and the sense of a life well lived.' (Jonathan Sacks, Chief rabbi).
Jonathan Sacks statement is powerful but counter-cultural one. As Schluter and Lee outline, our highly individualistic age assumes that we function first and foremost as individuals - our everyday encounters serving mostly in a contractual, and 'rights based' fashion. Thankfully as Christians and doctors, we are aware of the faulty philosophy of such a view. As doctors, we see the value in nurturing relationships as we struggle to maintain the doctor and patient relationship in an increasingly pressured working environment. As Christians, we realise our true nature - relational beings made in God's relational image. However, the reality of nurturing our relationships can be challenging.
Schluter and Lee outline a way of looking at life 'relationally' - that is analysing the impact of our lifestyle choices on our relationships, motivated by Christian thinking on the importance of relationship. For example, on lunch- if the time spent with our children over a meal is more significant than any committee meeting, we might do well to spend some time thinking about what we will discuss, how the discussion went and what was going on in the individuals' responses - as we would do for any meeting with colleagues. On money - consider spending money to develop relationships, perhaps a night out with friends, rather than buying a new gadget. On coffee breaks - see sociability at work as crucial to effectiveness and productivity. In this respect, I have particularly valued the daily midmorning break of 10-15 minutes in my current practice. Day to day events as well as clinical questions are shared and I believe the teamwork is more effective as a result. All nineteen chapters are short and readable covering areas as diverse as lunch, leisure, sex, forgiveness and schooling.
The beauty of the book is that the aim of developing relationships is not for personal satisfaction. The wonderful truth this book subtlety reveals is that fulfilment comes from putting other people's interests first. While this holds true for this life, it hints at an even deeper reality. As Jesus declared, 'many who are first will be last, and the last first.' (Matthew 19:30) I will try even harder not to miss the coffee break.Reviewed by
GP in Farnborough and former CMF chairman