Let Your Life Speak — Parker J. Palmer (2000, Jossey-Bass)

Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer

The Score

There are a couple of metrics I use to judge the value of a book.

  1. To what degree does it change the way I think, live or make decisions? (5/5)
  2. How likely am I to immediately buy copies for friends? (5/5)
  3. What is the quality level of the book (author’s credibility, quality of writing, reliability of research and information)? (5/5)

Based on those questions, I have scored this book with marks out of 5 and taken an average as the final score of its value. (i.e. 15/3 = 5)

For Let Your Life Speak, I value it as a 5/5 book.

The Review

In Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer makes his case for living the “undivided life”. “The life that wants to live through you” he says. The life that calls to you from within–usually from a place of stillness with a tender voice–which you must decide whether to listen to. After all, as Palmer explains, vocation–derived from the Latin for “voice”–“does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live—but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.”

For Palmer, vocation is a calling to be heard. And as such it comes from within, intrinsically tied to one’s identity and true self. It is from a place of accepting and embracing the authentic self that one discovers his or her vocation. This is the subject of the first and second chapters, and in my opinion they alone are worth the price of the book. Palmer has a way with language and metaphor that drives his message home, using his own life story to explain how one might understand and discover vocation.

The third chapter builds on the previous two explaining how “closed doors” can often be as guiding as open ones in illuminating the path of vocation—often even more so. We must therefore learn to accept when “way closes” behind us, embracing our limitations as well as our gifts if we are to live as an integrated and whole being following in the way of the things that truly fit our nature.

The final three chapters deal with hitting rock bottom, rising out of it, heeding the call to wholesome leadership and honouring and fully living in each of the varied seasons we find ourselves in–an entreaty to which the metaphor of autumn, winter, spring and summer is masterfully deployed.

To be honest, I got more from the first three chapters than the last three–but then again, that may be because of the questions most important to me as I read the book. No doubt a reading during a different season of life may reveal new appreciation for different parts of the book. Nevertheless, if you were to read this book and reflect on it deeply, I’m sure you would find something in here to either challenge or encourage you if you are quiet enough to let it. This is one of those books that, should it find you at the right time, could be comforting, instructive and transformative, and for that reason I highly recommend it.