“Margin” Book Review

36820_1_ftc_dp The first time I heard about the concept of margin I was talking to another pastor about his associate pastor.  He explained that his associate pastor was always stressed out because he left no “margin” in his schedule.  I was curious about what that meant, so I asked.  He went on to explain that this associate would schedule his day down to the minute and would then get frustrated when one appointment took longer than he had expected.  He would spend the rest of the day feeling behind because he hadn’t built in any “margin.”

After reading Margin by Richard A. Swenson I’m beginning to see that this concept of leaving space in one’s life applies not only to one’s schedule, but to finances, emotions, and rest as well.  The term “margin” refers to “the space between ourselves and our limits.”  Swenson writes, “When you reach the limits of your resources or abilities, you have no margin left.”  Swenson’s theory is that each person has a maximum capacity of 100% whether it be time, finances, emotions, etc.  Because we only have so much capacity we put ourselves into very dangerous positions when we live our lives at this 100% figure.  The reason for this danger is that when you plan to use all of your capacity, you have no room for the unexpected.  For example, if you budget so that every single penny is spent by the end of the month you have no “margin” for the unexpected car repair, the emergency room visit, etc.  The same is true with our time.  If you budget your time so that every single minute is spent, you have no room for the unexpected talk that you daughter wants to have or the friend who just needs a few minutes of your time and a listening ear.  Swenson writes:

We must have some room to breathe.  We need freedom to think and permission to heal.  Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity.  No one has the time to listen, let alone love.  Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions.

The solution to the dilemma of living at out limits is “margin”.

Margin is best described as a self-help book.  It definitely incorporates Christian themes, but it is not an overtly biblical book.  This is not to say that Margin is not a helpful book, but it would have been much richer had the author operated out of a biblical world view rather than a psychological world view.

The biblical terminology for what Swenson describes as “margin” is Sabbath.  God created 6 days for work and on the 7th day He rested.  In today’s society hard working men and women are in desperate need of rest (Sabbath).  We must accept our own limitations and to incorporate the discipline of being still.

I enjoyed reading Margin very much.  It is a book full of practical advice on issues ranging from time management to finances.  As long as you approach Margin as a source of very good advice, you will be blessed and will hopefully be challenged enough to create margin in your life and to finally rest.

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July 08 2009 04:00 am | Blog

One Response to ““Margin” Book Review”

  1. Shepherd’s Notes » What is a Leader? on 11 Oct 2010 at 4:03 am #

    […] to the point where they are no longer available.  In short, leaders must build in “margin” to their lives which allows them to be available so that they can […]