Too soon old too late smart by Gordon Livingston (Hodder, 2005) is sub-titled: thirty true things you need to know now. It is a collection of random thoughts and insights gathered by Livingston over his many years as a psychiatrist. Many of these thoughts run into each other and the chapter divisions seem like they were added later.

He writes much about finding a marriage partner, believing that we need to think through this process a lot more carefully than we currently do. The quality he feels we most need to cultivate in ourselves and look for in others is kindness, a willingness to give of ourselves to another.

He defines love like this: “We love someone when the importance of his or her needs and desires rises to the level of our own. In the best of cases, of course, our concern for the welfare of another exceeds, or becomes indistinguishable from, what we want for ourselves. An operational question I use to help people determine if they really love someone is, ‘Would you take a bullet for this person?'”

His point being if we cannot even contemplate this act, how can we pretend we love them? This ‘bullet’ question also illustrates another important point that he makes which is – love is demonstrated behaviourally. If someone’s actions repeatedly don’t line up with their words, then believe their actions not their words. The example he uses here is when girls say to him, “He does inconsiderate things, but I know he loves me.” He counters this by saying is it possible to intentionally hurt someone we love?

The book covers many other topics ranging from ageing, illness, the therapeutic benefits of laughter, forgiveness, freedom of choice and makes for interesting reading. I wouldn’t agree with all of his conclusions but it is certainly enlightening to read his perceptions.