Brene Brown is a social researcher. She has a very powerful message to share that she has found through her research.
She argues that human “connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
From her research she divided people into two basic groups; those who have a strong sense of love and belonging (and thus feel connected), and those who really struggle for it (and thus feel disconnected).
And here’s the kicker, here’s her revelation from her research:
“The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.”
She found that these people are “whole-hearted.”
That they had a sense of courage, where she uses the original definition of “tell(ing) the story of who you are with your whole heart.”, and thus having the courage to be imperfect.
They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.
And “as a result of this authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.”
And they “fully embraced vulnerability.”
They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. This means that they have “the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees …”; the willingness “to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.”
Brene argues that vulnerability is “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
Yet, as she also discovered from her research we all have a tendency to numb our vulnerability, but the problem is “that you cannot selectively numb emotion.”
“You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, …”
Instead she argues that we need to accept our feelings of vulnerability because it means we are really alive, and we need to “believe that we’re enough.”
I strongly recommend you listen to her TED talk here.
In reflecting on this I see many ways in which our upbringing can predispose us to being in one group or the other.
With an upbringing by wise and loving parents we should grow into adults who have this sense of belonging and being worthy.
Yet there are many factors that work against this, not just our natural tendency to question and second-guess ourselves, and perhaps lack the confidence to be authentic due to peer pressure, etc., but a whole media push to constantly tell us we are not good enough without buying into the latest fad or getting the latest toy or gadget, etc., or being part of some special group that ‘has it all’.
Also, I suspect for many brought up in recent decades within a Christian environment, the false ‘Original Sin’ doctrine has been far from helpful here as it tries to convince people that they are at their core, and from birth, sinful and depraved beings with little hope of redemption without miraculous external support.
Rather Brene’s research rings so true with foundational Biblical principles. Consider the Sh’ma (Deut 6:4 …) for example and the two greatest commandments according to Yeshua.
“Listen, O’ Israel: YHVH is our God, YHVH is one!
You must love YHVH your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.
These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up…”
And Leviticus 19:18: “…love your neighbour as yourself; I am YHVH.”
You cannot truly love your neighbour unless you love yourself. True love and devotion to the Almighty should also being the revelation that you are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, and you cannot hope to give your all in loving God if you find yourself unworthy.
But you can change!
You can grow in acceptance of yourself; in being more authentic; in being ‘whole-hearted’ so that you can give ‘whole-heartedly’ to God!
The two groups of people that Brene refers to are not those who are very gregarious and love being around others, compared with those who prefer a more solitary life. This was not the distinction she was making.
I think in this respect, there is also a lot going for the ‘solitary life’ or at the very least for times of peace and quiet and times of reflection away from the ‘madding crowd’, including family, etc. But Brene was instead contrasting 1) those who believe they’re worthy of love and belonging with 2) those who don’t.
Her argument is that those who don’t feel worthy are more likely to fall for addictions; to feel dis-connected (which is not at all the same thing as enjoying solitude), to struggle to find joy and happiness. Someone who feels worthy is more easily able to be vulnerable, and in turn such people are more easily able to ‘hear’ the lessons that God gives us every day and grow from them.
A lack of a sense of worthiness in turn leads to placing barriers and walls which not only lead to disconnection but inhibit any openness to growth and learning.