Unleashed Book Club: Chapter 4


Welcome to the Unleashed Book Club! We’re reading Unleashed, by Sonja Corbitt.

-Unleashed Book Club 800 - CatholicMom.com copy

“Seriously?” was all I could think. “This happened again?”

I was finishing my term as president of a small, local non-profit. This organization has a tradition of the incoming president making a presentation of gratitude to the outgoing president. This time, I was the outgoing president. I had worked hard for more than a year, first stepping into the role when another had to step out, which put the whole organization in jeopardy. I’d worked to maintain the group and move it forward in spite of a number of challenges. An organization that was expected to fold was still here, thanks, I thought, in no small part to my awesome, brilliant hard work. It was time to get some well-deserved recognition, right? Right?

The time for the presentation came…and passed. Nothing happened. I was the first president in six years to not receive public acknowledgement of her contribution.

Later the incoming president pulled me aside and apologized. Due to family circumstances, she just couldn’t do anything for me that day. Outwardly, I said it wasn’t a problem. I understood. It was fine. Family comes first, doesn’t it?

Inwardly, however, I asked God, “Again? I mean, really?” It was just like that time I told my dad and brother that I finally had signed a publishing contract for my novel, only to have them not ask a single question about it and start talking about scouting or the military or long-dead family members instead. Or that time I poured myself into a youth ministry program to the point of burnout, and when I resigned, I didn’t even get a farewell card from my fellow staff members. Or like that time I dressed to the nines as a surprise for my brand-new husband with plans for a romantic evening at home, only to have him come home too tired for anything but eating chips in front of the TV. Or that time I shared a very moving spiritual experience with my retreat group in college, only to have a special needs person on the retreat interrupt me with his sharing, so that I couldn’t get any of that feedback I so desperately craved. Or that time when for no reason, I–

I stopped. I prayed. I realized that this time was going to be different. After all, I had since read Unleashed by Sonja Corbitt. I now could see that I wasn’t being ignored and discounted for no reason. I was being taught something precious. I just needed to stick around the pain long enough to find out what that is.

It’s no exaggeration for me to say that Unleashed has changed the way I live and think and feel and pray. I have the distinct honor and challenge of distilling some lessons available in Chapter 4.

One lesson:  God is speaking to me, drawing me closer to Him, grafting me more and more into His Body, through the repeating patterns in my life. 

As Sonja says in Chapter 4:

As adults, the people we choose to allow into our lives can trigger negative emotions and even emotional eruptions that call forth deep-seated pain and wounds. These are places that are bound up in anger and pain, places in which the Holy Spirit wants to unleash us. God can use the negative emotions to change us.

Reading this and all the examples and scriptures she gave throughout this chapter, I was able to see that I have deep pain that circles around memories that left me with the feeling that what I feel and say doesn’t matter to those who are “supposed to” care about me. Is this because I am not worth the care of others?

No. Hardly. The King of the Universe took the time to make me. I can only have value–infinite, precious value. And so can you. And so can the people who act carelessly towards us. Which brings me to…

Another lesson: God doesn’t want me to ignore the sinful behavior of others. He wants me to experience it (and the emotions it evokes within me) so that I can whittle down my own sins with and through His grace. This will unleash me to love more fully, more generously. Sonja points out:

Jesus has something revealing to say about the people who trigger our negative emotions. They are our mirrors. God shows us ourselves through these people, especially the parts of ourselves that are unacceptable to us, the parts we repress and deny a voice. They are our teachers.

I don’t want to see myself as someone desperate for attention and recognition. But I am. Can I open my selfish eyes enough to see those people around me who really need attention, recognition, care, love? Sure I can, as soon as I pry that giant log out of my cornea.

Healed eyes are transformed eyes, and transformed eyes are conformed to the love of the Holy Spirit. If that love transforms, perhaps those who bothered, hurt, or downright destroyed me will themselves be transformed as well. Then we can all be healed.

And yet another lesson: the subtitle of this chapter is “Surrendering Judgment to Peace.” By living with those things that upset us, both in others and even moreso in ourselves, we experience on a visceral level how the pain of this world cannot destroy us. We don’t just learn, we know that Christ’s admonition to “judge not” is the way to peace, both now and eternally. 

Another gem from Chapter 4:

Whether we judge or forgive, the measure of judgment or forgiveness we offer him or her will be the measure we receive ourselves (Lk 6: 37-38). Seen in this light, those who seem to be our greatest enemies are actually a source of rich blessing. They are opportunities for humility and love, opportunities for more of God, opportunities to be unleashed.

I think this ties into Chapter 1 where we talked about hospitality. There was some discussion on both suffering (through cleaning—ha!—or our own pridefulness) to make others comfortable and hoping that others would pay us the honor of suffering through our imperfections when our cleaning wasn’t perfect enough. So this is hospitality, too, when we suffer our enemies’ foibles, whether they come into our homes and hearts or we buck up enough to finally enter into theirs.

[On a personal note, I’d like to take a second to speak to those of you reading who may, in fact, have a person in your life who is not safe to be aroundEven if someone is too dangerous to keep in your life, you do not have a right to hate that person. So how do you love someone who must, for the sake of life and love, be kept absent from your life? Pray for that person. Perform acts of charity and penance in the name of Jesus and on behalf of your enemy, and ask the Holy Spirit to heal that person. Imagine the delight God will give you when you get to heaven, healed and whole, and that person is there, purified and made whole as well, because of your love! Being willing to share heaven with your enemy? Now that’s hospitality! That’s forgiveness. That is heaven.]  

There’s more—a lot more—in this chapter, but I have to stop somewhere! So now it’s your turn. Talk to us!

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Take a moment to look for just one pattern of rejection or pain in your life. What were you hoping to get from those who hurt you? How are some ways God already has given you exactly that?
  2. Does your irritation with someone else’s sin automatically mean that you are guilty of the exact same sin? Why or why not? If not, what message is God sending about you through that other person’s sin?
  3. Can you share about a time when refraining from judging another person brought you peace?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 5. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Unleashed Book Club page.

Copyright 2015 Erin McCole Cupp


About Author

Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. She's working with Our Sunday Visitor on a book about parenting spirituality for survivors of family abuse and dysfunction. Find out more about her novels and other projects at ErinMcColeCupp.com.


  1. Erin, we are WAY more alike than you even realize. I’m still reading this chapter. This book is giving my soul a bit of a workout. And “surrendering judgment to peace” is really what I need to be doing right now. As to question 2, in many cases in my life, YES–what irritates me in others is generally VERY much related to my own faults, failings and sins. It might show up in different ways, but underneath the sin is the same.

    • That’s what we’re sort of taught to expect, I think: that if we see someone sinning, it’s only because we are guilty of the same exact sin. In lots of cases, yes, that is true. However, Sonja’s book showed me that that is NOT ALWAYS the case. In fact, I’ve worked so hard to avoid committing several kinds of sins committed against me personally that I’ve been busy committing fresh sins of my own that I let sneak in the unguarded side door of my heart. Either way, the problem does boil down to focusing on others’ sins instead of our own. The former makes us whiny victims. The latter is the only way to peace and joy.

  2. This book has been quite the soul workout, like Barb said. This chapter was eye opening, and I really liked your summary of it, Erin. I could relate to your experience. I have been in situations where I thought I’d be acknowledged or appreciated, but I wasn’t. Once it was when I was leaving a job, and there wasn’t even an announcement that I was leaving. One day, I was there; the next, I was gone … I also have had people change the subject when I am sharing something important. That’s hard. Other examples surfaced while reading through this chapter, too. I have been working on asking for the grace to know of God’s care for me, so that in those situations, I can feel less hurt, because I know the One who loves me without condition sees my value and worth and delights in me … As for question #2, I think it is a yes and no answer … With my daughter who is so much like me, yes. I get irritated with her “struggles” that are most like mine … But thankfully, I can help her because of our similarities, too. With a couple other people that are challenging to me, it is harder to tell. In those relationships, though, I definitely have plenty of opportunities to practice graceful humility, which is perhaps the lesson God has for me.

    • Sarah, when you wrote, “But thankfully, I can help her because of our similarities, too,” I pray that you can see what a GIFT that is! So many people refuse to the hard, uncomfortable work of the long look in the mirror. Just by saying what you did in your comment (and in your Unleashed contribution on Chapter 3!), you are showing yourself, others, and most importantly your family that you are doing that very hard work and coming out more compassionate and loving for it. Obviously, none of us is done that hard, uncomfortable work, but I pray that the fruit we see is enough to feed us to the next milepost. Thank you so much for commenting.

  3. I’m a week behind on reading and commenting but had to comment on this one first before moving on. So far, this chapter 4 has given me the most to really think about and chew on as it has kind of surprised me with thoughts I think I’ve had but didn’t have words for.

    I think I read this chapter just when I needed it, when a world of judgement and opinion was on display all over my social media feeds and looming over all my conversations. Sonya hit the nail on the head so well and really helped me understand the “do not judge others” on a more clearer and practical level.

    Out of every great sin or catastrophe, God can strengthen us through it and bring us into a deeper perfection in him.

    I relate to you, too, Sarah about seeing my own struggles in my children. Sometimes this makes it harder to help them because I haven’t yet figured out how to help myself, but other times, by helping them I help myself and we help each other.

    • “Out of every great sin or catastrophe, God can strengthen us through it and bring us into a deeper perfection in him.”

      I couldn’t agree more. Wasn’t this the chapter where Sonja wrote that other people are the mirror God holds up to us so we can know ourselves more clearly? I also totally relate to what you said about “I haven’t yet figured out how to help myself, but other times, by helping them, I help myself and we help each other.” I also think the latter part of that works as well: that when our children see us correcting ourselves, they see the richness of life that comes from that kind of humility. Two out of my three either fall apart or shut down when corrected, so I have to really, REALLY stay calm when I make a mistake and correct myself carefully, talk to them about how I’m correcting myself, etc. There are soooo many graces that God pours out on us AND those we love when we just humble ourselves the teeniest bit.

  4. I’m a week behind too, but hopefully catching up. I just completely underestimated how awesome this book was going to be. I figured it would be good (Lisa Hendey has always had great recommendations), but like you’ve said “soul workout” is the perfect description. I think I’ll have to read this one again. It has me thinking and wondering and pondering a lot. It’s taking me a while to process it all. I’m viewing family relationships differently now…especially with my children. I also learned the proper definition of charity. Wow. That alone, is something to mediate on.

    • Isn’t it, though? And I now sheepishly admit that I wasn’t expecting this book to be so straightforward and yet so foundation-shatteringly powerful (in the best way, of course). I’m another one whose family relationships–and, I think, relationship with self, if such a thing exists?–have been turned a little farther on their poles, if that makes sense. Enjoy your re-read! I plan on doing the same.

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