Brene Brown: Dare To Be Vulnerable

Daring Greatly


“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.  It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.  It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging” (p. 10).

“Scarcity is the “never enough” problem.  The word scarce is from the Old Norman French scars, meaning “restricted in quantity (c. 1300).  Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack.  Everything from safety to love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking.  We spend inordinate amount of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs, and wants” (p. 26).

“Scarcity doesn’t take hold in a culture overnight.  But the feeling of scarcity does thrive in shame-prone cultures that are deeply steeped in comparison and fractured by disengagement” (p. 27).

Worthiness Leads to Vulnerability (and Vulnerability is the Path to Wholehearted Living)

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.  If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.   I know this is hard to believe, especially when we’ve spent our lives thinking that vulnerability and weakness are synonymous, but it’s true.  I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  With that definition in mind, let’s think about love.  Waking up everyday and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice — that’s vulnerability.  Love is uncertain.  It’s incredibly risky.  And loving someone leaves us emotionally exposed.  Yes, it’s scary and yes, we’re open to being hurt, but can you imagine your life without love or being loved” (p. 34).

Vulnerable but not Weak

“When discussing vulnerability, it is helpful to look at the definition and etymology of the word vulnerable.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word vulnerable is derived from the Latin word vulnerare, meaning “to wound.”  The definition includes “capable of being wounded” and “open to attack or damage.”  Merriam-Webster defines weakness as the inability to withstand attack or wounding.  Just from a linguistic perspective, it’s clear that these are very different concepts, and in fact, one could argue that weakness often stems from a lack of vulnerability — when we don’t acknowledge how and where we are tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt” (p. 39).

Personal Comment: Christ is vulnerable to us, but not weak.  We are made in his image, meant for a relationship with him and to be Christ-like in our relationships to others.  This leads to Wholehearted living.

Vulnerability Leads to Trust

“When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in.  Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears — the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable” (p. 52).

“With children, actions speak louder than words. When we stop requesting invitations into their lives by asking about their day, asking them to tell us about their favorite songs, wondering how their friends are doing, then children feel pain and fear(and not relief despite how our teenagers may act.  Because they can’t articulate how they feel about our disengagement when we stop making an effort with them, they show us by acting out, thinking, This will get their attention (p. 52).

Shame Hinders Vulnerability

“[Shame] is the fear of disconnection” (p. 68).

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” (p. 53).

Guilt vs. Shame

“Guilt = I did something bad.”

“Shame = I am bad.”

Personal Comment: From a Christian perspective, our worthiness is grounded in the fact that we are created by God in his image for a relationship with him.  We may be guilty of not listening to him, but God offers us his grace and opportunity for a wholehearted life.  We are worthy of his love because he created us.

“Shame resilience is a strategy for protecting connection — our connection with ourselves and our connections with the people we care about.  But resilience requires cognition, or thinking, and that’s where shame has a huge advantage.  When shame descends, we almost always are hijacked by the limbic system.  In other words, the prefrontal cortex, where we do all of our thinking and analyzing and strategizing, gives way to that primitive fight-or-flight part of our brain” (p. 76).

Dealing with the Pain of Shame

“According to Dr. Hartling, in order to deal with shame, some of us move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets.  Some of us move toward by seeking to appease and please.  And some of us move against by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame (like sending really mean e-mails).  Most of us use all of these — at different times with different folks for different reasons.  Yet all of these strategies move us away from connection — they are strategies for disconnecting from the pain of shame” (p. 78).

Men and Women

“But the real struggle for women — what amplifies shame regardless of the category — is that we’re expected (and sometimes desire) to be perfect, yet we’re not allowed to look as if we’re working at it” (p. 87).

“Basically, men live under the pressure of one unrelenting message: Do not be perceived as weak” (p. 92).

Shame and Intimacy

“Cultivating intimacy — physical or emotional — is almost impossible when our shame triggers meet head-on and create the perfect shame storm” (p. 103).

“I think we can all agree that feeling shame is an incredibly painful experience.  What we often don’t realize is that perpetrating shame is equally painful, and no one does that with the precision of a partner or parent” (p. 105).

Love and Shame

“Personally, I fought the data with everything I have.  Over and over, I heard the idea of self-love as a prerequisite to loving others, and I hated it” (p. 106).

“[Shame] is universal, but the messages and expectations that drive shame are organized by gender.  These feminine and masculine norms are the foundation of shame triggers, and here’s why: If women want to play by the rules, they need to be sweet, thin, and pretty, stay quiet, be perfect moms and wives, and not own their power.  One move outside of these expectations and BAM! The shame web closes in.  Men, on the other hand, need to stop feeling, start earning put everyone in their place, and climb their way to the top or die trying.  Push open the lid of your box and grab a breath of air, or slide that curtain back a bit to see what’s going on, and BAM!  Shame cuts you down to size” (p. 107).

“As I look back on what I’ve learned about shame, gender, and worthiness, the greatest lesson is this: If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light.  To set down these lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave.  To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly” (p. 110).

Personal Comment: Shame is the serpent’s work.   Loving us so we can love ourselves to love others is Christ’s work.


The work persona is the Greek term for ‘stage mask.”  In my work masks and armor are perfect metaphors for how we protect ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability.  Masks make us feel safer even when they become suffocating.  Armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary from dragging that extra weight around.  The irony is that when we’re standing across from someone who is hidden or shielded by masks and armor, we feel frustrated and disconnected.  That’s the paradox here: Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you” (p. 113).


“In the first chapter, I talked about “enough” as the opposite of scarcity, and the properties of scarcity as shame, comparison, and disengagement.  Well, it appears that believing that we’re ‘enough’ is the way out of the armor — it gives us permission to take off the mask.  With that sense of ‘enough’ comes an embrace of worthiness, boundaries, and engagement” (p. 116).

Personal Comment: We’re enough because God created us in his image.  There is joy in knowing all things hold together in Christ (Colossians 1:17), that in all things God works for those who love him (Romans 8:28), and nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38).

“In a culture of deep scarcity — of never felling safe, certain, or sure enough — joy can feel like a setup” (p. 118).

“For those welcoming the experience, the shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us” (p. 123).

“Gratitude, therefore, emerged from the data as the antidote to foreboding joy” (p. 123).

“If the opposite of scarcity is enough, then practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough” (p. 124).


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