Brené Brown on Love, Respect, Kindness, and Vulnerability
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Brené Brown on Love, Respect, Kindness, and Vulnerability

A post contemplating Brené Brown on Love.

Of late I have been thinking deeply about these issues of the human heart. It’s partly because of a dark and difficult book I’m writing, and partly because someone to whom I’d turned for help, someone I trusted and respected and liked, has let me down.

This person is powerfully and deeply defended, and isn’t the kind of person who can own their own stuff. Rather, it would be a situation of lack of truthfulness and unacknowledged projection—as it has been for a long while.

So there will be no resolution for me with this person. There will never be a moment when that person can look me in the eyes and own having taken advantage of my trust and vulnerability. It’s not going to happen. And that’s life, so often unresolved.

It happens, right? I sometimes think that we’ve all been subtly trained by sappy television shows and trite movies to believe that there’s always a neat ending that fits our preconceived notions of right and wrong. I also see in our culture a growing entitlement and refusal to take personal responsibility. It dismays me.

Then this morning I encountered this quote:

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.

Brené Brown The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I took from this passage that I can continue to nurture and grow love, trust, and respect within myself. I can soften and I can open my heart, even when the other person doesn’t. I can own that in myself: my willingness to be vulnerable, respectful, and kind.

It doesn’t mean I have to be vulnerable to everyone I meet.

There’s a myth that’s prevalent in our society that blames both parties for the behavior of one party, as if two parties equally participate in one person’s treatment of another. All you have to do to understand the falsity of that notion is read history. Categorically, the Jews had nothing to do with the way Nazis treated them. It works in the microcosm, too, in dyad. One person can behave well and the other not so much.

There’s another liberal culture myth that I call the Great Narcissism, which goes like this: If we are tolerant of them, they will be tolerant of us. People want to believe that. They want to think that the world is a mirror that will reflect back their own kindness and tolerance. It’s just not so. It’s a very dangerous myth, in fact.

Plenty of extremist groups will use tolerance to hurt the more tolerant groups.

But Brown has a point: we can each nurture love within ourselves, not demanding and expecting that it will be universally reflected back. But sometimes it is, sometimes the other person can and will nurture their own inner love, kindness, respect, and trust, with mutuality and reciprocity.

Then there is transformation and healing.


24 I am’s, with a tip of the hat to Lori
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24 I am’s, with a tip of the hat to Lori

My friend Lori, who is gorgeous and brilliant and inspiring and open-hearted in a way that glows and draws people to her rather inescapably, keeps a heart-felt blog. I love her writing because it’s poignant and soulful and expressive. It flows through the reader. It moves the reader to openness.

I adore Lori because she is wonderful and she is special and she is herself, and because she knows about suffering. It’s something she and I share: rotten childhoods. Other on-going and wrenching difficulties. A sense of the bigness that deep ache can bring to your spirit, if you refuse to allow loss to sour you. An ability to have fun and to laugh from the belly, because there is so much sorrow in life that you must play and giggle and sing and dance every chance you get.
Oh, and she’s part Comanche, so the Cherokee in me feels comfortable around her.
Lori’s blog features an enchanting “about me” page that includes “24 I am’s, in no particular order.” I was perusing her blog this evening, and I wondered, Can I do this?
So here is my list, 24 I am’s, in no particular order:
1. I am a 50 year old mother, wife, friend, and author. Yes, I’ve reached my half-century mark. It’s like falling off a cliff, upward.
2. I am a dedicated practitioner of yoga.
3. I am happy wearing yoga clothes, even when they’re stinky. Lululemon: you rock! Don’t their yoga pants make everyone’s ass look good?
4. I am just as happy wearing a great dress, especially when I feel like I’m pulling it off.
5. I am possessed of creativity, ferocity of spirit, and great friskiness.
6. I am the color turquoise, because it has playfulness and substance, and some deep connection with the heart. Sometimes I am lavender or yellow, or all three at once.
7. I am a novelist. I am always writing a novel. I am a poet, too. I am in my soul essence when I am writing.
8. I am a person who knows about suffering and loss.
9. I am in love with dark chocolate.
10. I am from a background filled with fear, shame, rage, lack, deprivation, violence, and other destructive elements: a background that tried hard to extinguish my light. It failed. My light does take regular maintenance, to be sure, to keep it bright. But I’m still shining.
11. I am an enthusiastic traveller. I carry my passport in my purse in the hopes that TODAY I will get to fly somewhere. I would rather travel than eat, though the two go awfully well together. I have been to England, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Bali, Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, and the Caribbean.
12. I am an inveterate ravisher of books. I consume books. When I finish reading a book, I have marked it up, squished down corners, stuck in sticky notes, licked my finger to flip the edges of pages, and invaded it entirely. It wants to take a shower and a nap.
13. I am secretly planning a second career as an art thief. Think about it: art thieves get to wear slinky black cat suits, they get to use the newest, coolest, high-tech gadgets, they get to go into museums when no one else is there, and they get to go home with a painting. How awesome is that?
14. I am a card player.
15. I am grateful. I find time every day to give thanks for the good things and the great people in my life.
16. I am one-third extraterrestrial.
17. I am already planning my next life time. Hello, reincarnation.
18. I am learning. I like challenges, so I always find something to learn.
19. I am questionative. For this word, I must give credit to my gloriously curious little daughter, who invented it to describe herself. And she came by the trait honestly.
20. I am here, committing.
21. I am a dog lover. There are two labs in my life right now who cuddle most deliciously. Each one is 55 pounds of lap puppy.
22. I am convinced that being underestimated is a position of strength.
23. I am willing to laugh with you and I love to do so.
24. I am a person who is generous, who is kind but sometimes not nice, who is playful while being solemn, and who is often misunderstood. Hello, complexity.