Some weeks ago, I was listening to a TED talk by Brene Brown. (TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design, a non-profit organization promoting the best in human advances across business and academia.)   Brown is a professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social work.  Her TED talk centered on the whole idea of vulnerability in human relationships.  Her background and research revealed that relationships are at the heart of who we are as human beings.  Clearly we were built to relate to others.  She discovered that those who live the most wholeheartedly and who experience the most happiness in life are those who have been able to build the strongest relationships.  Now of course, this is a wonderful conclusion to reach.  The question then is: how can a person cultivate such relationships?  Her answer surprised her and also threatened her sense of self.  Strong relationships require vulnerability.  The problem with this is that vulnerability is risky.  It opens us up to rejection and pain, the very things we would all like to avoid in life.  Most of us live with deeply entrenched self-protective strategies crafted to keep us safe.  It seems that those very strategies that are meant to protect us actually keep us from getting close to people and finding joy and happiness in life.

Now as a pastor I read this and it reflects what I have seen anecdotally.  I’m not a social scientist like Brown is, but my experience confirms what she has learned from her research.  I see people hungry for connection but also deathly afraid of rejection.  I see people numbing themselves to the pain in their lives and as a result feeling more disconnected.  What is the way out?

Her solution to this block is that we need to let go of those things that hinder us from being vulnerable.  We need to let go of what people thing about us, let go of perfectionism, let go of our self-numbing strategies, let go of comparing ourselves to others, and our need to always be “in control.” When I read the gospels I see Jesus living in just this way.  Unlike the Rabbis of his time, he befriended his disciples.  He opened up his life to them.  He freely showed his emotions expressing anger, indignation, and shedding tears publicly.  Often he was moved with compassion in ways that others could see.  He loved freely.  He was no stone faced savior.  He lived vulnerable and free.

I am grateful to Brown for her solid research and helpful books.  My view does differ with hers, and perhaps, where things matter most. We part company in what the source of our cure is. She believes we need to give ourselves compassion and to come to believe that we are worth it and valuable.  I believe this, but I also believe there is a deeper source for personal value and worth, and a deeper source for the kind of compassion that enables to see ourselves as the broken people we are and yet with beauty and value.  I believe that comes from God and is far more powerful that any words of self-affirmation could ever be.  It is to be loved by God and given infinite value in his eyes. His compassion transforms us and gives us a security that opens the way for healthy vulnerability and significant relationships.  Jesus made himself vulnerable, as vulnerable as anyone can be, so that we might have the assurance of God’s love for us and acceptance of us. I believe the more secure we are in who we are through him, the more vulnerable we are able to be.

Brown’s TED talk:

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on August 12, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Great reminder.


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