Summer Reading: Daring Greatly

Brene Brown gained quite a bit of internet fame due her TED Talk on vulnerability. And for good reason: the talk is amazing. No really, go watch it right now. If you’ve never seen it before it will be 20 of the best minutes of your day.

I’ve had her book, Daring Greatly, on my “to read” list for a while. I was hoping it would provide inspiration for me as I ponder our family’s future.

I was kind of disappointed though.

This is actually a good thing. I think I was expecting a rah-rah-g0-get-’em-don’t-waste-your-life kind of book, but instead her vision of daring greatly is much more mundane, much more normal than mine.

Again, this is a good thing. Instead of let’s go conquer the world, she offers hope and help for people who are trying to make their marriages work, trying to love their kids well, trying to succeed in their jobs. Not as sexy, but immensely practical.

Three things stood out to me. First, her stuff on wholeheartedness is outstanding. Wrapped up in that is the tension between ‘scarcity’ and ‘enough’. Most of us live in a scarcity worldview, when actually there is enough. Her point is that vulnerability and wholeheartedness are inextricably tied together…you don’t get one without the other. So, let’s have the courage to believe we have enough, and the vulnerability to let go of the scarcity worldview (I’ll never be enough, have enough, etc).

Second, she writes a great section on addiction towards the end of the book. One of the more convicting points had to do with how many of us don’t think of ourselves as addicts, but we all utilize coping mechanisms that she calls “taking the edge off.” Whether that’s a couple of extra drinks, or a couple of extra hours in front of the tv, it might not look like an addiction, but when we consistently (daily) rely on those things to “take the edge off” our stressful lives we are essentially addicts, just trying to escape reality. Ouch!

Finally, my favorite part of the book is that Brene is relentlessly honest about herself and her struggle with vulnerability. This is not just an academic topic of study for her. This has been a real life struggle, and her honesty is refreshing and makes the book far more readable than it might otherwise have been.

Brene Brown Being Awesome

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically…before we even sit up in bed…we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day.

Scarcity is the “never enough’ problem. What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating is that we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it. Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare ourselves and our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.

The opposite of ‘never enough’ isn’t abundance or ‘more than you could ever imagine.’ The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness. There are many tenets of wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.

Daring Greatly

Losing, Vulnerability, and Idols

Today I sat in a meeting where we craft teachings for our broader community. The conversation ranged far and wide: worship, self-reliance, vulnerability, joy.

My dad is fond of quoting Woody Allen (which is a lot of fun to write) who once said: “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

What struck me in our conversation today was this: that statement is true, and leading people to say no to what their heart wants is really, really hard work.

The biggest difference between my work in Colorado (with a CTK church plant) and here in Boston is this: the people in our little church in Colorado knew they were broken, and people in Boston won’t admit it.

Here in Boston we can hide behind achievements and opportunities. Busyness and activity are our idols. There is always something better and bigger and more impressive just around the corner if we keep pushing and working and striving.

It is extremely rare to come across a self-deprecating, genuinely happy, average sort of person. (Like this guy). Someone who tells the truth about themselves, someone who is grounded and non-anxious.

In fact, it was mentioned in our meeting today that a person like that would be held in suspicion in most of the circles we run in.

This semester has been fantastic so far. Ministry is going well by several measures. I love the conversations I get to have as students share their hopes and dreams and struggles and questions and ambitions and fears.

It feels weird to, in some way, discourage students from pursuing their dreams, to not go for it. But often the pursuit of that dream becomes their god. And underneath that is the anxious striving of someone who can’t deal with failure and their own brokenness.

If there’s one thing I hope I can do for students it is to remind them that it is ok to be vulnerable. 

You don’t have to rely on your self.

We worship a big God, full of grace, who loves us for who we are not for what we do.

In the words of Brene Brown: “Vulnerability is the birth place of joy, love, belonging, and creativity.

It’s fascinating this paradox we invent for ourselves: the very thing we don’t want to do (be vulnerable) is actually the thing we need to do in order to experience all we hope for (love, joy, community, etc).

Perhaps that is part of what Jesus meant when he spoke of gaining the world and losing our soul.

From the Message:

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?