Thursday, June 16, 2011

[vulnerability] on forgiveness and grace

I've been feeling really worn out in recent weeks and unsure what to do about (e.g, another staycation? -- I just took a weeklong one a month ago). I'm starting to feel more enlivened.

On Monday, I listened to the audio recording of Liz Walker's sermon at the 2011 Boston Pride Interfaith service.

She quoted Fromm: "love is the solution to the problem of human existence."
She said that love is something you work at and that we have to learn to let go -- she talked about forgiveness and mercy.
She cited Nouwen on voluntary displacement -- "if love does not carry us beyond ourselves, it is not love [...] love is total abandonment to the divine," "the opposite of love is not hate, [... it is] fear."

Someone linked me to "If Grace is Received, It Must be Given". I don't love all of this essay, but I do really appreciate its challenge to us to love others as Deity loves us:
1. You won’t be shocked, disappointed, disillusioned, or angry when others mess up. You will accept them for who they are: sinners, like you, desperately in need of God’s grace and your love.

2. As a result, you will have no other choice but to love them unconditionally. You won’t love them for who they are, what they do for you, or what you hope they might become. You won’t reject them if they don’t measure up.

3. You will love them with specific grace. It is easy to love all Christians in a general way. It is quite another thing to love specific people for what they specifically are, in spite of their particular weaknesses, eccentricities, and shortcomings.

4. Your love will demonstrate irresistible grace. Such unconditional love will draw them irresistibly to the Christ who has filled you with such irresistible love. It will have an irresistible force drawing others who witness this love to the same Christ.

5. And this grace turned horizontal will persevere to the end. It will never forsake or abandon its commitments or covenants. It won’t run from those who frustrate, reject those who irritate, or wall off those who disappoint.
I listened to a bunch of Ani DiFranco -- but not the angry stuff; I started with her cover of "Amazing Grace" and then "sorry i am" and "not angry anymore" came up.
night falls like people into love
we generate our own light to compensate
for the lack of light from above.
every time we fight a cold wind blows our way,
we can learn like the trees, how to bend, to sway and say

i, i think i understand
what all this fighting is for,
and baby i just want you to understand
i'm not angry anymore.
no, i'm not angry anymore.

-ani difranco
I'm in the midst of arguably 3 separate fraught relationships, and yesterday I was really pleased that I could respond dispassionately to one of my friends being really upset at me -- I lived into my knowledge that responding in the moment wouldn't help, I curbed my defensive impulses, I didn't internalize his negative emotion ... I don't know (since we haven't spoken since) how successful my eventual reply was in being appropriate, effective, etc., but I stand by the choices I made re: when and how I responded, and I'm not obsessing about whether/how I could have responded better and/or where things are at now.

Much of this emotional (non)response isn't stuff I can cause myself, so I'm grateful to the Divine for that grace. Similarly, I'm grateful for the grace of peace and letting-go re: the other 2 relationships -- i feel like I've said what I need to say, and I'm waiting on the other person's response but I'm not feeling anxious or obsessive about it, am not doing much in the way of pre-emptive defensive crafting of responses to things they might say.

At faith sharing this Tuesday, we didn't so much talk about creativity as we DID creativity.

Hilary led, and afterward she emailed the list 3 TED talks.

I wasn't impressed by the first one, but the second one, Sarah Kay: "If I should have a daughter..." I really loved the spoken word poem that opened the talk (sidebar: TED has both subtitles and an "interactive transcript" option -- though it took me a while to realize that one can in fact c&p from the latter), and the whole thing is quite good.

The 3rd one was Brené Brown ("Maybe stories are just data with a soul.") "The power of vulnerability", and I like that one a lot.

And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection. The things I can tell you about it: it's universal; we all have it. The only people who don't experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this "I'm not good enough," -- which we all know that feeling: "I'm not blank enough. I'm not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough." The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

[...] if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness -- that's what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness -- they have a strong sense of love and belonging -- and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if their good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe that they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

[...] And so here's what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage when it first came into the English language -- it's from the Latin word cor, meaning heart -- and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was that they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this. They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerability made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating -- as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They're willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.
There's also a piece near the end that made me think of an Atlantic article that's been going around -- "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy: Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods."

Brown says:
And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They're hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not so say, "Look at her, she's perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect -- make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade." That's not our job. Our job is to look and say, "You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we'll end the problems I think that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate -- whether it's a bailout, an oil spill, a recall -- we pretend like what we're doing doesn't have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, "We're sorry. We'll fix it."
(emphasis mine)

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