Saturday, January 28, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now by Ruby Hillsman

Do you feel like you are making the same old mistakes, over and over again?
Over the years, Hillsman heard people talk about the mistakes they had made, wishing they could live their life over again. She writes to encourage them – there are others who feel the same way. She writes to encourage those who didn't listen to caring people – it's never too late to start. She encourages people to use what they know now to live their life. She also encourages people to learn from the experiences of the stories in this book.
She relates experiences from her own childhood and the lessons learned from them. She then moves on to her school years, and some work experiences. She gives the lessons she learned when the schools integrated in the mid 60s. She shares lesson from playing basketball, lessons from nursing school (on and off the campus), from working in the medical field, the psychiatric unit, the oncology floor, and from a variety of circumstances like sales.
Many of Hillsman's lesson are just good psychology. For example:
“1) Learn to be comfortable within your own skin. It is what you were born with, and unless there is trauma to it, it is not going anywhere. 2) A person does not have to buy into other people's opinion of him.” (88)
Hillsman concludes that it comes down to what we will do with what happens to us. Two people will have the same experience. One rises above while the other becomes bitter. We have to decide. We have to try. No one else will do it for us. “Positive changes requires letting go of faulty ideas, negativity, senseless behaviors, and/or toxic people while making essential sacrifices and taking consistent steps in the direction we are pursuing. Learning the right way to do things requires being steadfast.” (139)

The book lacks proper editing. For example, here is one lesson she learned: “You fight a fire according to the type of fire that you have; never fight fire with fire or more fire.” (39) Here is another: “If a person does not learn the right things to do, then she seems to do what she thinks is right.” (116) She writes, “...we are all born very unique and different...” (128)
Sometimes the language was a bit too “down home” for me, such as hearing “which women were knocked up when they got married...” (38)
Some of the lessons are easy to say but hard to do. For example, “”If and when someone does you wrong and you survive it, do not worry about it. Pick yourself up, and get on with things. It is just a temporary distraction that we allow to keep us from doing the things we need to do. ...” (41)
Sometimes she shares a lesson with no suggestion as to how to live it out. For example, regarding trauma and loss, “Learn healthy ways of handling or expressing any anger... Learn to absolve ourselves of self-blame. … Learn how to restore trust in others... Learn how not to be a victim again...” (43)
Sometimes the lessons are just a bit simplistic. For example, “The lesson I learned was that the right attitude is everything.” (119)
For me, the lessons she learned about premarital sex left much to be desired. Evangelical Christians will have trouble with her advice on it. “I saw that it was best not to have sex with someone if you are not willing to spend the rest of your life with her. That cannot be much fun.” … “When dating and in establishing relationships with others, it seems best to learn to become friends before becoming lovers.” … “It seems best to stay away from one-night stands.” (123)

Reading this book would be frustrating to many people. It would probably be best received by those from a similar cultural background as Mrs. Hillsman.

Ruby Hillsman has been a registered nurse for over thirty years. She was a retail business owner for more than twenty-two years, a minister's wife for twenty years and a part-time instructor. See more at

Westbow Press (a division of Thomas Nelson Publishing), 141 pages.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. 

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