Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Empty shelf challenge...

Just for fun, I decided to jump in on Jon Acuff's Empty Shelf Challenge
The idea is simple - clear out a bookshelf in your home and fill it in 2014. Participants are also encouraged to share opinions/reviews/recommendations during the year. So, here's my (teeny-tiny) empty shelf.

And here is my (teeny-tiny) empty shelf with my first finished book of the year -- 
by Brene' Brown.

I actually began reading this book last year but was interrupted by some study responsibilities and, well, life. But I loved it and when I picked it back up I started over (highlighter in hand, of course) and I highly recommend it. The title comes from this quote by Teddy Roosevelt: 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Brown is a research professor who has spent over a decade studying shame, courage and vulnerability. While that description may not make you instantly want to pick up this work - trust me, it's worth it. She kind of burst into prominence with this TED talk which completely endeared her to me and made me want to read her book. It's the kind of work filled with the kind of ideas that I wish I'd have been exposed to when I was younger -- as a young mother, particularly. (The parenting applications are powerful). But, even at 52, I'm still learning, turning the ideas over in my head, chewing on what it all means.

A few things that struck me --
-- The concept of "foreboding joy." Ohmigosh. I thought it was just me! It's the paradoxical experience of intense joy paired with (a usually irrational) fear that the other shoe is about to drop and it can all be taken away. Foreboding joy is an attempt to minimize vulnerability, to beat it to the punch by preparing for something awful. But it doesn't work. We just miss the joy. I loved the alternative - soften into the joy, lean in and let the quake of vulnerability work as an invitation to gratitude. Gratitude - joy. This is a theme I love and must practice. 

-- Another quote that resonated with me is this one:
"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity." Hmmm.

-- I used the distinction between guilt and shame while teaching at camp this summer. Guilt can be helpful as a tool for correction and improvement - shame never is. Guilt says, "I did something stupid." Shame says, "I am stupid." 

There's so much more, of course, to this book. The concept of embracing imperfection and vulnerability, to live "wholeheartedly" and courageously engage with others -- it's beautiful. Great, constructive insight and practical tools for leaders, church folks, teachers - basically anyone involved in any kind of relationship. So, all of us. There's much to dig into.

I want to share her beautiful parenting manifesto and leadership manifesto (in case you parents and leaders aren't convinced yet). Both are available on her website, along with more information about Brown and her work.

(On a semi-related note, before I picked the book back up, I chose "open" as my one word for 2014. Pretty vulnerable, now that I think about it.)