I have listened to Glennon’s podcast We Can Do Hard Things with Brene Brown as her guest three times now. The title of this podcast is “What to Say to Get What You Need.” I am super busy and needing to get stuff done, but this podcast is the culmination of everything I have learned during my seminary career. I want to share a few important things that were discussed. The reason it is important is because what is shared is about forming meaningful relationships. This is my heart’s desire. It is about connection. Something we talk about often communally but have never really defined what connection actually is.
First, we cannot connect meaningfully to others without connecting to ourselves first. The depth we are connected to ourselves is the best predictor of our ability to connect, and how deeply, with others.
Brene Brown has a new book out called Atlas of the Heart. The overall thesis is that the more we can identify and communicate our emotions, the more grounded we will become in ourselves. This is a book about emotions. This Enneagram 4 woman is super excited about this. Finally, a book with data to back up its findings to help guide us toward emotional intelligence and connection that is sorely lacking in our culture.
I was telling myself a story the other day about why a friend might be acting a certain way towards me. I caught myself and realized what I was telling myself was not real. I ended up reaching out to this friend asking a few questions and explaining why I was feeling anxious about it. I did this before I even heard this podcast. It was a good move and led to a fruitful conversation. I was not, in fact, interpreting the situation correctly. Brene Brown says she has learned after getting so much wrong for so long, we cannot recognize emotion in other people. Whoa! This is a deep truth.
Brene says that trying to interpret someone’s emotion(s) is an attempt to hotwire connection. It is a get-out-of-jail free card to not do the work to find out what actually is going on with that person, possibly because we need this person to be a certain way for us to feel safe. Truly engaging and listening to the person will challenge us to believe them even if it does not resonate with our lived experience and what we need from them. Instead of telling them what we think about their emotion(s), which is dismissive and wounding, it will lead us to ask questions like this: God, that hurts. What does love look like for you right now? What does support look like for you?
She also described the difference between “far enemy” and “near enemy.” The far enemy of connection is disconnection. But the far enemy is not what unravels everything we need in a relationship—it is the near enemy. The near enemy is the thing that masquerades as connection, but it is actually undermining connection. The near enemy of connection is control. Glennon went onto to add wisdom here: We only try to control things we do not trust.
Trust. That is what I am seeing we do not have enough of in our Christian faith. We have not been formed to trust people. We are told not to trust people. People will let you down. People are sinners. While all of this can and will be true, this teaching is leaving us with the inability to connect meaningfully because we do not trust. We act like we are connected through control. Trump is a great example here. Trump seems really connected to his followers who have stickers and all kinds of goods to rally their support around him. He is speaking to their pain but he is not meeting their pain with vulnerability. He is leveraging their vulnerability with control. He is forming relationships based on attachment, not connection.
True love appreciates. Attachment aims to possess. Religion is so guilty of this.
Brene says when a theory is applied it needs to be able to be applied at both the macro and micro level of our systems—our family systems and our communal systems. Control is the fragility around our own worth. This is where I call into question the church teaching people they are sinners. We teach people not to trust themselves and therefore that lack of trust plays out everywhere—family, community, and even with God.
When the soccer trauma happened. I was shocked out how unprotected children are—and we do it by choice. By not trusting people around us who are sharing wisdom that they know and the system will never see, people are choosing ways that put their children in harm’s way. I have had a hard time healing from this, and I told my therapist how the system failed a child at every level. Therapist: You did not fail the child. God, I needed to hear those words.
The reaction to what happen was immediately to control the environment and the public perception. That is our natural go-to. But the reality is that was not real, and Jake and I were dying inside and had to pretend not to be so no one felt uncomfortable. This led to our own abuse and silence. Leaders are not protected either. A perception was created that was not real and people lived into whatever reality they wanted to create. I also saw that I had been living in a reality that was not real either. These friends were not who I thought they were, and we were operating under different rules of what friendship meant. Then the same thing came with the church—Trump’s election. How could I worship with people who believed the women’s assault and unapologetic racism was unfortunate but not calling for action on their part? This is not how a safe community operates. The church should be protesting this.
I came to Wilshire in 2017 not believing I held very much worth after that experience. When relationships started forming that felt so good and healing, I attempted to control these relationships for fear of losing them. This was a sign that I really did not trust these friends. It is hard to form meaningful relationships forming a strong attachment over a strong relationship. When I learned to let go in soccer, that is when I stopped trying to control the story and started moving. It led me to Wilshire and ultimately seminary. As I am healing currently, I am letting go of my attachments and finding out I have real friends who are there and I can trust them, and they know they can trust me. The more I have been digging into my Elsa identity, the more I am growing in confidence and finding my own worth. She is helping me learn to trust myself and not try to control the environment. I am learning how to respond to the environment with what is needed from me in the moment as the world is, not how I wish it was.
True love appreciates people for who they are, not who we want them to be. Love does not control. Love trusts people. We have to learn how to trust ourselves and not try to control our environment so we can build these meaningful connections that are grounded in reality. Not a perception of what is real