Archive for the ‘Brene Brown’ Tag

The Gift of Gratitude

Nan journal Today is Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to thoughtfully reflecting on our many blessings.  It seems too short, only having one day to acknowledge all the wonders of life we enjoy.  With the start of the Christmas season just around the bend, I would suggest that the best gift we could give ourselves is the gift of gratitude.

Many times we think of gratitude as a way of showing appreciation to others for the kindnesses they show us.  This is certainly right and true, but the gratitude I’m talking about is our personal recognition of ordinary joys that make our lives worth living.

Right now, I am participating in an e-course by Dr. Brene Brown called “The Gifts of Imperfection,” based on her bestselling book.  Dr. Brown gained notoriety through her talks on TED.com where she spoke about topics that no one else wanted to address:  shame, vulnerability, and what it means to live wholeheartedly and authentically.

As part of our coursework, we have created a journal, and this past week, our assignment was to create a collage of photos or drawings that remind us of our ordinary joys, the very normal moments of our day that we would miss if we didn’t have them.  The premise is that by paying attention to the simple aspects of daily living that bring us joy, we cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  You can see from my collage above that my simple joys range from seeing my husband come home from work to my favorite pussy willow lights to a hot cup of tea and watching my dogs sleep in the sun.

When Dr. Brown was conducting her research through interviewing people who had suffered a great loss (spouse, child, or some other trauma), what she found was that the memories that meant the most to them were those very ordinary moments. Further, as she questioned these people, she discovered that their greatest desire was that others recognize the wonder of those everyday moments and appreciate them.  It was through this that they felt their loss was honored.

In thinking about this coursework and interacting with my classmates online, I’ve made the observation that the practice of gratitude for blessings big or small gives us a broader perspective from which to view life.  As we move through difficult trials and loss, giving thanks for the moments of beauty and joy that we experience reminds us that while one area of our lives might stink at the moment, there is still beauty and joy and love, and that generates hope.  That is what makes life worth living.

The psalmist said, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1 NIV).  We sometimes view this as how we must give God his due, as if our giving thanks benefits God in some way.  In reality, the practice of gratitude is a gift that God has given us, enabling us to recognize the simple joys of life and providing a way to give us hope when times are tough.  Thanksgiving may only be one day, but I’ll bet you have your own list of ordinary moments of joy to remind you that God has given you one wild and precious life.

~by Nan Kuhlman

Connection

My husband and I seem to have a problem with rings.  On our honeymoon 25 years ago this week, he lost his wedding band in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.   About a month ago, I sucked up my diamond band in the vacuum, shattering one of the diamonds and ruining the setting.  Wedding rings are a symbol of the connection in marriage.  If our connection was based on how well we took care of our wedding rings, we would be in trouble.

Thankfully, our marriage is still intact and unaffected by our ring mishaps.  Life is messy, though, and relationship connections make up a large part of that messiness   Connection gives us purpose and meaning, and according to author and researcher Brene Brown, the ability to feel connected is part of our neurobiological wiring.

Brown shares what she’s learned through a decade of research into connection in a 20-minute presentation available on http://www.ted.com.   She tells us that in order for us to experience true connection with others, we have to show our true selves, imperfections and all.  We have to let go of who we think we should be and have the courage to be imperfect.  In other words, we have to be naked in all our glory.

This reminds me a verse in Genesis about Adam and Eve before the serpent showed up:

“The two of them, the Man and his Wife, were naked, but they felt no shame” (The Message, Genesis 2:25).  Adam and Eve experienced connection with each other, where they felt accepted for who they were and how they looked, and they graciously extended that to each other.

In her presentation, Brown reveals that shame (one major deterrent to connection) is universal – we all have it to one degree or another.  But her research turned up something quite unexpected.  She found that while shame and vulnerability were common to all, those who had healthy connections (a “wholehearted” approach) had a strong belief that they were worthy of love and belonging.  Though they didn’t feel being vulnerable was comfortable or easy, they saw that being authentic to themselves and being open and vulnerable with others was necessary for true connection to occur.

Being authentic to who we are and allowing others to see that is not easy.  But as I’ve thought about our hang-ups (okay, my hang-ups) with imperfection and vulnerability, I’m slowly becoming convinced that there is beauty in the vulnerability of imperfection through which the light of the Triune God shines through.  If we were created for connection with the Father, Son, and Spirit, as well as our fellow human beings, wouldn’t it make sense that the quality of our connection would depend in part on us being the unique person we were created to be?

It seems to me that any false self we might bring to a relationship would be unable to connect fully with another person, because the love and relationship that flow from the Father to the Son through the Holy Spirit to us would be hindered, like a corroded pipe prevents a free flow of water.

As we accept ourselves and give that gift to others, relationship snafus like lost or ruined rings aren’t that big of a deal.  Our beliefs that “I am enough” and “I am acceptable” give us the grace to weather the mistakes we all make.

When we are willing to be open, authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect, the beauty of the Triune God shines through us and connects us with others.   By being willing to be vulnerable and authentic, we become a conduit through which Divine love, grace, and acceptance flow to a very thirsty world.

                 ~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of http://www.weddingringspix.com

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