Brené Brown is a shame and vulnerability research professor that I have been casually following for some years. Her Dare to Lead book is the recent offering of her research to the workplace. It seems slightly counter-cultural to bring these subjects to work and yet I think we are desperate for it. When it comes to a book primarily about shame, courage, and living ‘wholehearted’ with our work, there is no shortage of application for me. How could there not be?
Years ago I was impacted by her research on what it meant to be wholehearted. She explains in her book Daring Greatly that the difference between those living wholehearted, brave lives and those hiding in shame was one thing that over a decade of research eventually uncovered. The assumption was that it would be circumstantial – that wholehearted people would not have faced as many difficult, shaming ordeals or they would have more positive people around them telling them how good they are. This was not the case. Here it is:
Wholehearted people believed they were worthy of love.
This has not been an easy thing for me. Early on I developed the paradigm that my value was based on what I was accomplishing for God. I did not carry a deep sense of being worthy of love even though I had been a ministry leader for over a decade. I believed the world was worth my love (John 3:16) and my tireless work. But I failed to see myself as part of the world He so loved. I came to believe that I am worthy of God’s love and that I am more than just a conduit for His love to get to others. Good News indeed.
How is this sometimes missed by ministerial leaders? I am finding in my research that it is complex.
Digby encouraged me in Hong Kong to look into historical views of atonement as part of my research. What is God’s view of us? Are we worms? Why did God act in history through Jesus? I have not landed on an atonement team yet. This is mostly because my study is in infancy and partly because I do not like to be wrong (I know, I know, Brené).
Personally, there is some intersection between believing I am worth being loved and deeply studying this from a biblical perspective. Is Brown’s thesis the stuff of the ‘God within’ heresy that Douthat purportsor is it ontologically true? Is it the Gospel in shame researcher language? Is this what the cross proves – that we are worthy of love? I recognize the subterranean thought of my wormish-ness. My depravity wants to stay ever before me. And yet.
Scot McKnight unpacks the word ‘Eikon’ in his book on the atonement. He sees it as one of six strands from which to weave a view of the atonement. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term tselelm and refers to ‘image’ derived from the ‘image of God’ in Genesis 1:26-27.There is not space here to handle it well but it is a word that is potent and important. He summarizes:
…humans are created as Eikons, cracked in their present Eikonic struggle, shaped into Christ-like Eikons as they follow Jesus, and destined to be conformed to Christ in union with God and communion with others in eternity.
McKnight goes on further to discuss the issue of sin and its hyperrelational nature. Sin breaks and cracks relationships with God, with self and with others. But Christ. Because of Christ we can be broken and still worthy of love.
Reconciling that I am a sinner (cracked and insecure), dependent on Another to make me right before God, with the truth of God’s immeasurable love for me is not something I will resolve. I have made room to hold another tension – to surf another interdependent polarity. The longer I consider the upcoming Passion week and its manifold implications, the more convinced I become that we are worthy of love – and that Christ is the pathway from cracked to wholeheartedness.
Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. London: Penguin Life, 2015.
Douthat, Ross. Bad Religion: How we Became a Nation of Heretics, New York: Free Press, 2012, 233.
McKnight, Scot. A Community Called Atonement. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007, 17-8.