Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

November 7, 2012

Give a listen to Brené Brown

Greensburg — Many of you by now have seen the online video of Brené Brown’s lecture on the power of vulnerability.

Check it out on TEDx. I heard her speak recently, and it inspired me to buy her bestseller titled Daring Greatly.

I was thinking about her when I read that the theme for the 2013 annual conference of the International Leadership Association is resilience. Usually, we think of resilient leaders as tough, hard, stubborn, persistent, overcoming the odds. We do not associate the word “vulnerable” with the word “resilient.”

Dr. Brown would contend, based on years of research, that vulnerability is not weakness, but strength. To expose yourself to the emotional risk, to being wounded and uncertainty, that is the highest measure of courage. Counter-intuitive, right? You do not change, you do not take chances, when you play it safe.

Is it possible that resilience depends on our capacity for vulnerability? Strange stuff, to be sure, but maybe we need greater resilience in an age of uncertainty. Things change abruptly. Some industries collapse. Economies flirt with disaster. We want to lay our weapons down, then another threat looms. It’s not entirely clear the extent to which our privacy is being violated on a daily basis. Imminent failure.

Many of us elect to hide. Stay under the radar. We humbly decline to expose ourselves to criticism. Look, anybody can sit on the sidelines and make snide comments. It requires very little grit to play the comic or to look down one’s nose at someone stumbling around trying their damnedest.

Christians, we often confuse humility with fear. Humility means you will enter the fray, put yourself out there, not because you are so great, but because that is why God put you here to begin with. It is not absurd or pretentious to assert yourself. Be gracious, yes. Be tactful, absolutely. But get out there.

Will you fail? You bet. Stuff happens. You learn from doing, but you learn more from failing. Entrepreneurs understand this in their bones, and I admire them. They deserve the reward that might, eventually, come their way. I don’t begrudge them success.

Writing a weekly column in a newspaper is itself a little nervy – telling people what to think and all. But it insulates me from daring more. It gives me the freedom to finish typing, send it off to the editor, and then go watch football. I don’t have to make hard decisions. I don’t have to watch anyone suffer because of something I did.

I tell myself, look, dude, you have anxiety. You are a little high-strung. You just don’t have the temperament of the happy warrior — not like your eldest son. So maybe you’re not really cut out for “vulnerability” when you bruise so easily.

Then, immediately I confess that I am invulnerable in my softness, in my obscurity. Nobody will assail what they never see. Right? Ah, I am a ninja? Not so: a coward. As most of us are, I suspect. Brené Brown gives us all a quick kick in the rear, on the threshold of daring something, telling us that we can face the future only if we enter the arena against it.

 

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