A friend whose husband died unexpectedly handed me “The Way of Integrity” (Martha Beck, 2021) as she was trying to pick up the pieces and find herself again. This blog post is my critique of the personal development book.
Each of my critiques review the key message of the book, the high-level concepts, the book’s areas of strengths, and where it falls short. I conclude each critique with an overall assessment ranking (1-10 ascending) of its effectiveness in providing the reader applicable lessons in personal and/or leadership development.
Overview: “The Way of Integrity” grabbed my attention due to its allegory usage of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It starts with the Dark Wood of Error and follows the structure of his poems Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. Dante’s work is about freedom of the soul during life and in the afterlife. Martha Beck uses her own life experiences and challenges as an example for someone who has put in the work to liberate the soul.
Key Message: “Clearly my thoughts caused suffering. So, I didn’t obey them. I watched and questioned them until they dissolved.” This was the one line in the book I highlighted. It is the key message of choosing your thoughts. That’s what I would want someone to take away from this book when they put it down.
High-level concepts: Beck writes about how easy it is for someone to live incongruently, that is, in a way that doesn’t make them happy. There are innocent reasons for this that work subconsciously that keep us in self-betrayal. Beck works to raise the consciousness of your internal dialogue and argues that Happiness is quiet, peaceful and observant.
Areas of Strengths: The worksheet exercises are very helpful to reinforce the learning on a personal level. Who is your soul teacher? What is your dark wood of error? What does it feel like (your energy, your body, your actions) when you speak your truth? If you are a kinesthetic learner or someone who likes to practice, this book will be useful to you.
Supplemental Materials: The Way of Integrity – Martha Beck
Where it Falls Short: Reading the book made me want to revisit Dante more than anything else. I don’t think I’ll remember anything from this book except that she used the allegory. I also thought it was odd that major life challenges seemed to pop up on random pages and weren’t fully fleshed out. It’s possible that Beck covered these in detail in her other books, but as a standalone body of work, no bueno.
Overall Assessment & Why: I rate it a 5 out of 10. It’s definitely too long and I found myself wanting to skim it. I’m glad it’s in existence and it’s an Oprah Book 2022, but my newly widowed friend didn’t finish it either.