October’s theme is courage. In the past year or so I have thought about courage in a different way, that has been helpful to me, so I thought I’d try to share that here. A while back Rev. Kelly mentioned in one of her sermons the research of Brene’ Brown about how wholehearted people have the three C’s in common; courage, compassion and connection. Let’s zero in on the courage part.
The kind of courage that is common to wholehearted people in Brown’s research is the courage to be vulnerable. Those people who dare to show up as themselves in their imperfect state and be who they are instead of joining the throngs who hide behind walls or shields of perfection- are the courageous. The ability to be vulnerable allows wholehearted people to feel compassion for themselves and others and thereby truly connect with other people. We learned in our parenting class that the most powerful lessons we teach our kids happen in moments of vulnerability – those are the moments that we truly connect. That makes sense when we remember that successful parenting isn’t as much about what we do as it is about who we are; thus we have to be able to be who we are in order to connect on any real level.
Although we all admire it when we see it in others, it is hard to be vulnerable. It can be scary. The dark side of vulnerability is the threat of being exposed, disappointed and hurt. But the ability to be vulnerable is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, empathy, love and belonging. This is why being able to be vulnerable is a huge strength and requires a lot of courage. Across the board people that live wholehearted lives know that while being vulnerable is often uncomfortable it is also often necessary. These are the people who are first to say ‘I love you’ and invest in a relationship. They are people who do what is important to them with no guarantees of outcome. These are the people who show up and risk admitting the ways that they are human which in turn encourages others to see the truth about themselves as well.
I thought it interesting that according to Brown, people who have a strong sense of love and belonging all have one of the same things in common. They believe that they are worthy of love and belonging – not because these people are perfect (because nobody is) but because these people are okay with being imperfect, okay with being vulnerable.
I am grateful that the lofty concept of courage has revealed one of its faces to me in this concept of daring to be real to experience true compassion and connection. The more I practice the more I can tell when feelings of vulnerability make me raise my guard, and (on a good day) I can try to lower my guard and stay in the arena with my own self doubt. Author Rachel Remen says there are two kinds of people, “those who are alive and those who are afraid.” When you take up the dance of vulnerability believe me, you know you are alive.
Janen Wright– Director of Faith Formation