The Power of Vulnerability: Admitting My Ambition and Fear of Pride
One of the themes I heard from the pulpit during my Mennonite childhood was called “nonresistance.” We read texts like these:
- “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9
- “Perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18
Keep these texts in mind as you watch (or possibly watch again) Brene Brown in her famous TED talk called “The Power of Vulnerablity”
As I was writing my memoir, Brene Brown’s words sank in deeply:
“Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
After I had written an entire draft and even revised it several times, I sat down in my red chair and asked myself, “What am I most afraid to admit about my life?”
Then I wrote the first paragraph of my book:
After I wrote those words, I knew that I could dive wholeheartedly back into the text.
I became vulnerable by admitting my worst fear about myself. In print and right up front. From then on, I could love my life and my story with my whole heart, full of gratitude and joy. I could also love my imagined readers and bless them in whatever struggles they have.
Along the way I made a discovery of my own. The answer to pride is not shame. The answer to pride is always more love.
With 97 days to go to launch, my New Beginning today will be to look for an opportunity to be vulnerable and to show kindness to anyone who is vulnerable to me.
What about you? I continue to be amazed by the New Beginnings you are making! Don’t forget to check in today. Last time I looked there were sixty New Beginnings listed here.
Does it make you feel vulnerable to put into words how you are beginning? Brene Brown would say, “Good!”
Ronald Rolheiser the other day and I think it pertains to the discussion.
After many years emulating the feelings Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a rock,” I have discovered that vulnerability communicates much better than “a fortress deep and mighty.”
Got this in Rolheiser’s weekly email:
“One of the things that made Henri Nouwen such a loved writer was his disarming honesty. He hid little about himself.” Nouwen frequently quotes Carl Rogers who said, “what is most personal is most universal.”
The more an author shares his/her most intimate fears, longings, anger, fragmentation, joy, love, connectedness, the more they touch everyone; the more they connect to the universal soul.
Thank you so much, Don, and welcome to this space. Like so many others, I too love the work of Henri Nouwen, and for much the same reason.
Do you know this prayer of Thomas Merton? It means so much to so many. In weakness we are made strong:
The Merton Prayer
In Thoughts in Solitude, Part Two, Chapter II consists of fifteen lines that have become known as “the Merton Prayer.”
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
© Abbey of Gethsemani
Shirley, This is so well-timed for me as I work on my memoir revisions and face the events –my choices and actions–that I’m not proud of. I can skip them but if I don’t show how bad it was, no one will appreciate how good it is now. I do believe it is in our human frailties that we can connect with others. I love Brene’s TED talk on vulnerability. She helps me stay real. Thank you for stepping out and sharing. It makes me feel more connected to your story 🙂
Kathy, you will find power in facing the deeds and the thoughts you are not proud of squarely. When you do this, the reader can do it in her or his own life also.
Here’s the verse tacked up on my window to remind both of us what true bigness is:
“For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor hieght, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 35-39
I admire your honesty here and in your memoir, Shirley. I don’t know how one finds the balance you are seeking, but your answer of love makes great sense.
Thank you, Richard. As you can imagine, the whole book revolves around this question. I am at peace with my answer here, but that does not mean I do not struggle ceaselessly. I’m counting on community and on grace to bring me home.
Publishing ones memoir is the ultimate in allowing oneself to be vulnerable. In the days leading up to the release of my book I seriously considered scrapping the whole thing. The rewards that come from being open and real far outweigh my own temporary discomfort. I’m reminded of that every time I receive an email from a reader who has found something in my story to identify with.. Best wishes to you on this journey, Shirley.
It’s wonderful to hear this from an experienced author, Linda. I think I will write another post just about writer’s anxieties. Sure feeling them now. And grateful for your shared wisdom.
Shirley, I think perhaps you have opened my eyes to the need to allow vulnerability to lead my writing. I’m in a stage in writing my memoir where I’m not sure just how much I want to “tell.” Perhaps the answer will be found in writing as you did in your introduction by admitting my fear of telling the whole story. Thanks much for nudging me forward.
Sherrey, I feel this pain. This decision of how much to risk is a tricky one for all of us. We can do too much confessing and too little confessing. Sometimes the first draft of our story should be for our eyes alone. But if we know what our great fear is, we will write with more energy. And sometimes we have to write ten drafts before we actually know the answer to this question.