Some years ago, I did a little stand up comedy. My entire act hinged on the premise that we humans do not enjoy criticism. “Anyone else here grow up with critical parents?” was my opener. The crowd laughed. Because most were able to identify.
The problem with taking the position of victim in the face of criticism is that it shuts us down. We stop creating. We stop thriving. We stop living.
Brene Brown, a social scientist who appeared today in an interview with Katie Couric, summed it up well when she quoted Aristotle: “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
Brown’s research on shame appeals to me – shame is something I know a bit about – and, yet, this is not unique to me (Brene’s TEDtalks on YouTube have been viewed more than 6 million times). Brene now is focusing on the gift of vulnerability – something that is required if we are to connect with ourselves, with each other and with God. It involves risk – and the willingness to be seen as imperfect creatures in a world that prefers and often demands “perfection.”
In her new book Daring Greatly, Brown invites us to find a way to live abundantly and wholeheartedly, daring to do those things that are worth doing “even if, in the end, we fail.” In the Couric interview, Brown points out that we love to witness vulnerability – true vulnerability – in others but it is not so appealing or comfortable to us when we are the one acting from a place of vulnerability.
Christ modeled true vulnerability for us when he allowed himself to be crucified for our sake. Oftentimes – especially here in the Deep South – we focus on the cross as the price Jesus paid to cancel out our debt. God doesn’t need us to pay any debt! But as shame-filled, vulnerable humans, we find our spiritual and emotional accounts overdrawn and we need to be able to find a way into God. We need to get over ourselves. We need to find a way to allow ourselves to be loved by the One who knows, sees and embraces all.
I cannot help but think of a particular vision recounted by Julian of Norwich in Revelations of Divine Love. In it, she sees Christ on the cross and she is drawn toward the wound in his side. She discovers that this is the way into the heart of God – through the woundedness of Christ!
So, let us bring our imperfect, wounded selves to the One who was wounded for us. In this place we are gathered and held. From this place we find compassion and love for the Other.