Thursday, September 20, 2012

Do you dare greatly? The Merry Rose Reads

 Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
Daring Greatly gives a secular picture, painted with much research, of a truth I'm learning from following Jesus: vulnerability and openness, combined with inner truth, is a strength and not a weakness. The author, Brene Brown, realizes that if we are going to accomplish anything, we must put ourselves out there with the chance that we might succeed or we might fail. To have successful relationships, we must go deeper, and, again, there is the chance that we will be accepted or rejected.

Brown takes as her theme one of my favorite quotes: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. Theodore Roosevelt.

Reading this was a good reminder for me. As I grow older and have suffered hurts through daring or being vulnerable, it is tempting to seek self-protection and a comfortable life. This is doubly so because I feel myself growing just a little more physically vulnerable with every passing year. Like many that Brown describes, I react to fear with attempts to control the uncontrollable. Yet, the most important things in life do require that we "get in the arena" so to speak, rather than to stand on the sidelines. If I don't want to fizzle out on the last quarter of life's race, I need to step it up again. For me, that will mean stepping back from selfishness and growing in how I love others. Love casts out fear.

The author describes shame as the basic reason why we try to protect self at the cost of daring to live fully. She cites that we live in a
"never enough" society. We tend to focus on what we or others don't live up to or don't have, rather than validating the good. We all have a sense of shame about ourselves that we don't want others to see. To me, the question is, did we all arrive at this solely through culture? I don't think so, though the things that Brown notes in our culture can help us recognize the problem. Early in the Biblical account of man's history, we find Adam and Eve hiding from God because of true guilt, shame, inadequacy, and broken relationship. For the first time, they are ashamed of their nakedness or vulnerability. Adam tries the first blame-shift in history, "That woman you gave me...", thus trying to pin his shame on Eve and maybe even on God! God seeks them out and restores the relationship, establishes the consequences of their actions, and offers hope to come. My personal opinion is that we all have this sense of shame because we are broken in a sense. We all have some glimmer of what we were meant to be in God, and we have all fallen short of that. Therefore, the strength to become vulnerable comes from admitting our shame and receiving the grace, forgiveness, and wholeness that God offers through Christ. My thought is that if we attempt to fix this shame problem with anything less than God's grace, we will just patch it rather than conquer it. I think that's some of what Paul meant when he felt inadequate because of an illness and Christ said that his grace was sufficient for him.

One thing that fascinated me was the discussion about shame as experienced by men and by women. Speaking as a 57-year old, long-married woman, I was surprised that so many women found it surprising that men also feel shame and are vulnerable. They are especially vulnerable in the area of initiating sex. Is this and the fact that men and women cover for shame differently really news? I think of Paul's words: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes. Along the way in marriage, every husband and wife is confronted with how important it is to always protect the other, to always trust and hope for the best for the other one. In this way, we learn to be more connected in heart. To me, that adds to the sweetness and richness of a marriage. It takes time, perhaps a lifetime, to get there.

Brene also turns her research and observations toward helping people parent children and to lead adults in a healthy way. Many of her suggestions are practical and helpful. Overall, I am glad I read this book. As with any self-help book, I think it's a prompt to deeper thought and not the last word on the subject. It is, however, a word worth considering.

I received a review copy of this book through the BlogHer Book Club for a paid review, but my opinions are my own.


1 comment:

Sarah @ Modern Country Style said...

This book looks brilliant. I love reading books that really stretch me, as well as give me a fuller understanding of God.

I'm just reviewing Perfect English Farmhouse - decidedly less spiritual!!