Monday, November 26, 2012


Listening to Krista Tippett with Brene Brown in her show, the topic was vulnerability. There is a fascinating interplay between fear, vulnerability, and courage which she found through her research. Brene recognized that we often think that courage coems from strength. Her discovery is that our courage comes to us because we fear and move through that fear anyway. And most of the time that fear is in being vulnerable.

As I discussed this topic with a friend, it was fascinating that we had two separate concepts of vulnerability. My friend's concept of vulnerability is of information that one keeps hidden because of the likelihood that others would use that information about you for creating an advantage over you. In other words, exposing yourself in a certain environments that would likely result in an attack on you is the definition of vulnerability. This assumes a hostile environment, such as in a work situation where advancement thrives on tearing down fellow  team members.

Yet there are many possible ways of being vulnerable that can actually create a positive advantage for the relationship. I'm reminded of speakers who are not vulnerable, perhaps too polished, perhaps cold and analytical, who will not enjoy as much engagement from their audience. Whereas the speaker who shares personal failings and  foibles of their own life will find an audience identifying with them and trusting them to be authentic and honest.

Vulnerability can also disarm conflict. Instead of personalizing them and what they are saying, I personalize myself and my viewpoints. I can explain the facts of my position as well as quantifying the feelings that I have about it. The interesting (and fun!) aspect of this process of exposing my feelings is that there is nothing with which to argue. No one can say that my feelings are wrong or untrue. THey may say that it is stupid to feel that way, which might seem like an attack, but I am not responsible for that. If I am self-differentiated enough, I won't buy into their dialogue if it denies my feelings.

There is danger in vulnerability, and that is why courage is so necessary to engage in vulnerability. The result is connection. A risk and a reward. Is it worth it?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What Thanksgiving Means To Me

When we think of Thanksgiving, we usually think of the colonists at Plymouth Rock who had a Thanksgiving feast in their second year on the continent to celebrate the abundant harvest that year, and to share it with “the friendly Indians,” as the colonists referred to them.

After arriving on the Native Americans’ homeland in May of 1620, the first year saw starvation leaving 57 colonists out of 99 to survive the following spring.  And then an amazing thing happened.

“The friendly Indians” came to the colonists as they began to plant the fields. The Native Americans showed the colonists how to plant crops so that their harvest would be abundant.

And in Jamestown, as well, the colonists were short on agricultural skills. And, at their own peril, the Native Americans shared their corn with the colonists several times each winter over the following 3 years, despite the behavior of the colonists over that time. Over and over, Native Americans demonstrated how to co-exist and cooperate, offering peace.

What I see in Thanksgiving is the powerful demonstration of indigenous peoples to recognize the essence that is present in all peoples, even if they look different, sound different, and wear funny clothes with belts on their hats. Native Americans did not come from a place of lack. They know that we are all one, and they celebrated the abundance of the creator by sharing it, knowing that there is more than enough for everyone.