Meeting Brene Brown

Two nights ago I saw Brene Brown speak at St. Phillip the Deacon Church in Plymouth, MN. I have to thank Emily for letting me know about it, as she’s on internship in the beautiful state Washington, and her contextual education-teaching congregation is St. Phillip’s.

She gave a phenomenal talk, summarizing her main points of her 10+ years of her research, books and TED talks. We left at 6pm, thinking it would take us 30 minutes to get there, leaving a half hour to squat good seats, but traffic and parking was awful. So we squeezed in the backrow, of extra seating in the narthex, behind a wall. I was determined to see her, so I awkwardly scouted out 5 free seats on the back side wall, my awesome shoes echoing in the sanctuary as she started, but I didn’t care, I was 50 feet from the amazing Brene Brown. We saw her from this perpsective for 50 wonderful, wonderful minutes!!

She was cool and collected, fierce and calm. She has a masters and PhD in Social Work and researches shame, vulnerability and, a new theme, daring greatly. As described in her first TED talk, she describes her horribly annoying counselor who wouldn’t stop asking Brene about her vulnerability and opening up, this being about ten years ago. She didn’t want to touch the topic with a ten-foot pole, because let’s be honest who wants to, but she had this creeping suspicion that this wasn’t an isolated experience. So she listened to other people’s stories (qualitative research), hundreds of people. Her passion for shame and vulnerability and what makes people courageous is just starting to unfold.

There’s a difference between people who understand themselves as worthy and those who understand themselves as unworthy. She concludes that we are all worthy of love – and in her talk two nights ago she said this was a faith-based conclusion. She’s Episcopalian. I did a miniature dance inside my head when she said this because I wanted to shout “I KNEW IT!!!” because I’ve come to similar conclusions as I’ve grown up Lutheran (ELCA) – there is a stark difference between people who understand themselves as lovable, capable children of God, worthy of love, and those who don’t.

Brene calls those who feel worthy “wholehearted” people. I call it people who understand that God gave them life, created them, has sustained them, made promises to them that God continues to fulfill, help us get back up when we do bad things – people who understand that they hold immense power when they realize their very lives and gifts and passions and strengths are gifts from God, and we have the opportunity to serve our neighbor, down the hall in our apartment complex, or across the globe, as we use those gifts. That is courage. I have to work on narrowing that down, but you get the gist of it! We have come to very similar conclusions based on our own experiences of stepping out and serving our neighbor because we have a tiny inkling that maybe we are worth people’s time, we are worth God’s air floating around everywhere, and we are worth discovering our gifts in order to contribute authentically and positively to this world.

She signed my book (and as you can see, I probably popped her personal bubble but oh well!). I should back up. After her talk I went up in the Q&A line after listening to my heart beating in my throat going “GET YOUR BUTT UP THERE!” The facilitator of the Q&A designated the person in front of me to be the last question-er. I died. I became “Hey you’re that one girl who got cut off!” but that’s okay.

I got to talk to her as she signed my book and Carrie took our picture together. I told Brene that I graduated but still am fascinated by research and ministry with young women, and discovering (and reforming you could say) the role of the church in their lives as they go through vocational discernment. When I said this she stopped writing and looked up at me in they eyes. “Oh really?” I pretty much couldn’t say anything else because my mind was like a teenager hyped up on Pixie Stix. But somehow I managed to hand her my resume, my paper-clipped business card, and thanked her for her ground-breaking work and delivering it at such a timely moment in my thesis research last year as I stumbled on her TED talks via friend Amanda. I asked if we could talk more because our passions and interests align, and I have no idea what she said but I’m proud of myself for asking and emailing her the second I got home.

So that was my evening with Brene Brown. Well, not an “evening,” we didn’t exactly go on a date, but I sure wouldn’t mind if we did and I don’t think Timothy would either! So that was definitely a fabulous part of my week. 🙂

Now I’m left with this book, and after I finish another project, I’ll read it. I say that about a lot of books, but I really really really want to read this. Now go you go read it too – are you reading it?


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