Edith Eger's The Gift


It was a beautiful sabbath day today, and I stumbled across a book I had read last year that I really enjoyed and thought would make a great sabbath post. The book is called The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life, and is by Edith Eger, a practicing psychologist and Holocaust survivor. While I am not a big fan of books that purport to tell you how to live your life better, I perked up my ears when I understood the author was a survivor of Auschwitz. Surely if there is any book worth reading on "life," it would be by one who had stared death in the face and lived to tell the tale.

Eger, a Hungarian Jew, was sent to Auschwitz with her family when she was but 16. Her parents died there--sent to the gas chambers the day the family arrived--but she and a sister survived. At the beginning of her book, Eger says bluntly, "I am here to tell you that the worst prison is not the one the Nazis put me in. The worst prison is the one I built for myself." Eger wrote her book as a gift, with practical skills for healing from awfulness, whatever its source.

While I don't want to summarize the book, I think what I will do is give you some gems that make spark your interest in reading it in its entirety.

"Victimhood is a tempting shield because it suggests that if we make ourselves blameless, our grief will hurt less . . . [But] we can be wounded and accountable. Responsible and innocent. We can give up the secondary gains of victimhood for the primary gains of growing and healing and moving on." (16)

"Things that interrupt our lives, that stop us in our tracks, can also be catalysts for the emerging self, tools that show us a new way to be, that endow us with new vision." (26)

"You can't heal what you don't feel . . . A feeling is just a feeling--it's not your identity . . . With feelings, there's no way out but through . . .This is how we release ourselves from the prison of avoidance--we let the feelings come. We let them move through us. And then we let them go." (32, 35, 47, 48)

"The key to maintaining your freedom during a conflict is to hold your truth while also relinquishing the need for power and control." (109)

"The most toxic, obnoxious people in our lives can be our best teachers. The next time you're in the presence of someone who irks or offends you, soften your eyes and tell yourself, 'Human, no more, no less. Human, like me." Then ask, 'What are you here to teach me?'" (162)

"Hope isn't the white paint we use to mask our suffering. It's an investment in curiosity. A recognition that if we give up now, we'll never get to see what happens next." (169)

"There's no forgiveness without rage . . . We burn through anger so we can get to what's underneath: fear or grief." (179, 181)

I think you can see why this book may be of interest. Eger is no dilettante; she is a master psychologist. Her insights on life and healing are priceless, won in the fires of Auschwitz. I encourage you to read her book.