“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 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 errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the 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, 1910
Brene Brown opens her book Daring Greatly with the above excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris in the spring of 1910. She makes this observation about this particular passage: “This is vulnerability.” Now of course, we all want to run as fast as possible from the very thought of being vulnerable, but she makes a strong case for the value of living vulnerable lives.
“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.
When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.
Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be – a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation – with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.” – from the preface of Daring Greatly
Some of the things we do to avoid vulnerability include living in an economy of scarcity (never enough of anything, including ourselves), striving for perfection, covering up the things that cause shame in our lives, building a great big shield to protect ourselves, and disengagement.
Ms. Brown packs an enormous amount of helpful ideas and information into this book in an effort to unpack some of the core issues that hold us back and that keep us from living a full, wholehearted life where we bring everything God has given us to the table. She shows us how to build resilience to shame (a BIG one for me) and she shows us the difference between shame and guilt. She helped me understand that what I was identifying as guilt for much of my life was actually shame, freeing me to address the core issues of shame and vulnerability in my own life.
This is a book about moving from an economy of scarcity to an economy of enough. It is about moving from the intense pressure of striving for perfection (can you say performance?) to embracing who we are in all of our imperfection and brokenness. It is about living out of a deep sense of worthiness found in owning our stories and acknowledging that we are indeed enough. It is about saying that the way God made me is what I bring to the table, and it is enough. It is about breaking free from a dark life of shame-filled performance-oriented people-pleasing and basking in the sunshine in the land of wholehearted living.
Ms. Brown does not just throw this theory into the wind and hope something will stick. She writes out of many years of research and ultimately out of her own experience with shame, vulnerability and the elusive sense of worthiness.
I believe the culture of shame that many of us have grown up in is a nasty trick of the enemy, keeping us from having the courage to live into our full potential. We settle for less because it is ever so much less risky. We settle for less because we perceive it as ever so much less painful.
Ultimately, the Kingdom suffers greatly because we have not dared greatly. We have not been willing to take the greatest risks because it may not be safe. It likely will not be safe and we may end up bruised, battered, bleeding, covered in battle scars – but our lives and the lives of those around us will have been better because we chose to engage, and to enter the arena Wholeheartedly. We can stand tall, satisfied that we have brought everything into the arena and that we left it all there. We have given everything, and we have gained everything worth having – a wholehearted life.
This seems strangely like offering our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” –Romans 12:1
Oh, the irony of God leading me to choose the word COURAGE as my word of the year. His ways are indeed mysterious.