I just finished Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong. Brown is a research professor whose work focuses on the negative effects of shame on individuals and relationships. She encourages her readers to embrace their vulnerability instead of being ashamed of it so that they can live with authenticity and compassion toward self and others.
Vulnerability, as Brown defines it, is “the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome” (Rising Strong xvii). Truth be told, I find this concept – and most of Brown’s work – to be spot-on, exhilarating, and … terrifying. I have a perfectionist streak that is about 4’10” long, and thinking about showing my less-than-best self makes me knock-kneed. I’m working on being more brave, though, because there’s a cyclical relationship between vulnerability and courage. It takes at least a bit of gumption to put myself out there, but the more I do it, the bolder I feel.
Rising Strong is a sort of culmination of Brown’s research because, as she points out, if we are able to risk being vulnerable, we will sometimes end up with our noses in the dirt. What then?
Throughout November I will be riffing on Brown’s insights about picking up, dusting off, and charging ahead and then making applications to congregational life, because communities as a whole can find themselves facedown as often as individuals do. My prayer is that we’ll learn more about how to be vulnerable together so that we can feel more alive, be more creative, and connect better with others, all with a view toward living more fully into God’s mission for us.
May we be vocal in our vulnerability, because our courage is catching.