Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shame and Vulnerability

It's the moment when you think, "I'm not good enough," that it's got you.

I went to the interview with my resume clutched in my hand. I'd forgotten to send it, so brought it myself. I'd not thought much about it's inadequacy. Not until he said in passing - "This is your abbreviated CV?"

The smart-mouth me thought, "No, that's all of it. Entirely." But I didn't think that till much later. Don't the best answers arrive much too late to use? Between the offhand query and the answer were a few hours of shame.

Don't get me wrong, I still drove home, cooked dinner, chatted with my mum, laughed with the kids and kissed everyone good night. My husband, too. But there were moments peppered through the evening of shielding my face with the pressure of my hands, feeling exposed, and calling myself an idiot under my breath. I remembered every clumsy answer, replayed unbidden.

Shame re-imagined is vulnerability.

The interview was important to me. Being seen as competent mattered in that place, with people I do not know. Making myself available for judgement exposes me. And this judgement is always harsher in my imagination than anything that happens in the actual moment. No one could ever measure me as harshly as I do myself when I say "I'm not good enough".

At it's heart, shame is a fear of rejection and disconnection, and when things matter to us, when we expose our heart and our true selves, we are vulnerable to it. But Brene Brown would say, that if we avoid shame, we avoid wholehearted living.

You may have already seen this talk. But if not, listen here. It has some really useful things to say about how perfectionism and controlling our lives can be a way to avoid vulnerability, and hence miss out on real connection with people.

Listen, too, to her comment that we make the uncertain certain to avoid vulnerability. I would like to think about this more in relation to the truths of the gospel, and the way we try to make some areas certain that are actually uncertain - perhaps this is because we feel vulnerable - questions can make us doubt the ability of God to stand up amidst uncertainty.

I also ponder the idea of believing that we are worthy of love and belonging, believing we are enough. On it's own, this lacks a degree of substance - I cannot quite grasp it. But in the light of God's love, it falls into place. His love and grace to us mark us as worthy of love and belonging. I am enough because I rest in God who is enough.

Watch her second talk, too, if you have time...

It's paradoxical, isn't it? - that by protecting ourselves from shame or vulnerability, we actually limit our opportunities to really love, to really serve and to really experience God's work in our lives.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Give it away

image from here on flickr

I walked up from underground last Friday, emerging onto the city street. I'd arrived on a train the minute before and joined the crowd of tunnel-visioned commuters, through the Central ticket gates and up the stairs to sunlight. We marched sharing purpose and pace.

I have my morning habits so while I filed away my weekly ticket, I got out some change for a coffee.

Near the coffee stand, by the fence, three men were playing funk music and the crowd stopped rushing. We hesitated. The music changed the context and I stood to listen.

Strangely, I'd noticed another busker only two days before. I suspect I've passed many more without registering. It had sparked a thought about the generosity of playing music in public. Playing without a guaranteed return.

Perhaps it needs to be music you appreciate. Most of us only give attention to buskers who are good, ... or under the age of eight. It's like karaoke - we ignore it or block it out if it's average. But occasionally someone who can really sing gets up and I focus because I don't want to miss it.

So I stood at the kerb, turned back to the band and let the music enter my morning. My coffee money ended up in a stranger's guitar case and the exchange was complete. I walked up the hill, stopped to buy my coffee, the music carried with me for the day.

I love that they were there playing. That their abandon and fun touched a crowd of morning commuters. That the keyboard player's hair bounced with the music. That strangers can share connections, and that creativity is generously given.

What if we could all seek moments to give what we make or who we are to people? What if we could find opportunities to step into people's everyday rhythms and give them some fun? Be a blessing just because we can.

That moment of music has got me thinking. Got me looking for ways to deliver unexpected blessings.

image from here
Sharing with Emily at Imperfect Prose.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Did you see that? on Facebook?

It might just start with a status update. The comment appears within five minutes and it bites. Were you itching for the argument or did this just tickle a sensitive nerve? That is a world away from the update I *heard*... I see my friend answer graciously, as only she can, but it sets me thinking.

On Facebook, simple statements can be incendiary to someone reading from another perspective.

There's so much more than the words, to what we hear. Even on a screen. Can typeface have body language? Or is it just that the language I use, in this moment, draws on a million different conversations I've already had? And you've had a million of your own to activate besides.

Sometimes it's hard to hear the unadorned statement in the midst of all the triggered memories and associations. And most of the time that context and subtext makes words way more interesting and powerful.

Then there's times when I struggle to listen and not be ruled by my gut reaction.

To not bristle as he accuses me, or not wilt as she dismisses me. To hear a rebuke and not ignore it completely as inconvenient or unjustified.

It's easy to harden my heart, and in the process, stick my fingers firmly in my ears.

And that's when I miss the most.
Opportunities to understand or to change or to bless evaporate.
I long for a heart that doesn't harden, and ears that really hear, in the midst of the blaring context.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What happened in the 31 Days?

I've dropped it somewhere down between the cushions on the lounge. My clarity.

Thoughts, like disorderly books, resist my straightening. Their gentle jumble is familiar. Home is a welcome backrub and the scent of orange peel on my thumbnail. We eat lasagne from Aldi and talk school.

I'm scattered by the attempt to be in so many different places. This happens periodically and guilt rises. The next step in the dance is to criticise myself for being here. So let's not.

I'll tell you the good news.

I've been sitting with the Book each day, and the Book's been reading me. I haven't been able to compose words about it these 31 days, but I've been thinking on the pure and right, the noble and praiseworthy. Pondering the race laid out before us - not life lived for success, but life lived to be made holy and presentable by grace.

The background is that I struggle to be religious in anything. It's my nature to resist helpful habits. Like a baby, the moment I seem to find routine, is the moment I change what I'm doing.

But through some inexplicable work of God, his word has entrenched itself in me. In the last couple of years, reading the bible has entwined with joy and contentment. It has been my breath, and the breath of God in me.

And be sure that I don't say this to boast in me. I am actually mystified about the reason for this deep stirring. I am not a holy or particularly godly person. It is purely grace from God to me. I don't really tell many people because it seems like a weird thing to share...

"God has made me passionate for his word. It makes my eyes prick with tears and my spirit soar."

My earthliness chuckles "What the...?", while the word whisperingly leads me into the truth. That this is the most precious thing that could ever grow in me.

linked with Emily's Imperfect Prose.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Do you ever wish there was a simple answer?
If only we could stop doing the things that destroy us.
If only we could know how our efforts to connect can be so inappropriate and prey on the vulnerable.
If only we could know how to say what needs to be said, without offending.
If only we could decide to do something difficult, because we know it will yield a better life.
If only telling people they are loved were enough - that they would know it core-deep.

Remind me that I'm not trying to scale Mt Sinai.
I'm climbing Mt Zion.