Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Virtue. That to which we hold ourselves accountable to. Or not. If your forehead were a billboard, what objectives would be written there? Stephen Gabriel’s book, Speaking to the Heart, is a book that I wish that I might have written at a younger age.
Speaking to the Heart is a book for fathers written by a father (11). Gabriel’s focus on virtues arises from the desire to be an intentional father who can assist his children in navigating the turbulence of life (12). For those of us uncomfortable with the subject of virtues, Gabriel advises—pay attention to your discomfort because it points in the direction of wisdom (14).
The book is organized around 20 virtues starting with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (charity). These 20 chapters are introduced with an introduction and followed with a conclusion. Each of the 20 chapters begins with a scripture passage and a famous quote. The virtue is then defined in a single page. This definition is then followed by a two page discussion entitled: “Considerations for Growth in the Virtue of XXX”.
Chapter 7, for example, focuses on temperance. The scripture passage is 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 which begins: “All the fighters at the games go into strict training…” He then cites Robert Burton: “Temperance is a bridle of gold.” Gabriel writes: “Temperance is evidenced by a sense of moderation and restraint in the exercise of our appetites.” First among the considerations for growth cited is: “I reflect on how I seek my happiness and fulfillment”. Another gem is: “I am more attentive to the people I am with than to the food and drink.”
Gabriel’s Speaking to the Heart oozes authenticity. What gives the book authenticity is not the author’s professional background, expertise in ethics, or ability to turn a phrase. Gabriel is not an obvious candidate to take up the pen here. Gabriel’s authenticity arises because he promises publically to model virtue as a father and outlines what that looks like. In a postmodern world devoid of adults, that takes guts. You want to be a good parent? Model virtue.