Book Review: Daring Greatly

I just finished reading Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly.” (There is a YouTube video of her speaking at the bottom of this post.)

Brown’s research has focused on vulnerability, shame, and what she calls, “Wholeheartedness.” Plus, she manages to throw in scarcity, courage, and even a quote from Joe Reynolds, the former Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston.

Shame has a way of trapping us and preventing us from “daring greatly” (a phrase from a Theodore Roosevelt speech). Rather than living vulnerable lives of courage, knowing full well that we might fail, we often stand on the sidelines and ridicule those who do venture out.

Brown also discusses the different experiences of shame in men and women. For men, shame is wrapped up in power. When we feel powerless, we are ashamed. For women, shame is wrapped up in mothering and sex. Women feel shame in relation to raising children and their status as objects of sexual desire.

The most empowering theme from this book, for me, is courage. Right now Holy Comforter is embarking on a grand project – to redevelop our entire campus through a master plan process. It takes just about every ounce of courage to write those words, because I know how much easier it would be to coast along at the church without embarking on something so giant.

And I need courage to raise our daughter. I’m already thinking about what will be required of me to be vulnerable when she is older. I will have to come to terms with my own failures, shortcomings, and unpleasant memories so that I can honestly share those with her. Yikes.

Again, as I write those words I hear my own inner accuser saying, “look, stop this project at church and just let things slide. You’ve never done anything this big, and I know you can’t.” I also hear the accuser saying, “parenting is for women. Go to work. Do your job. Don’t get wrapped up in all that mothering stuff.”

Brené Brown speaks powerfully to that critic as she quotes from that Theodore Roosevelt speech:

“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.”

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