Confession: I haven’t been a raving Brené Brown fan. I like Brené Brown’s material on vulnerability, but I don’t love it. It hasn’t been revolutionary for me, probably because I’m too open as it is. I don’t need any encouragement in that area.
However, last month at the Global Leadership Summit, she spoke and I wished so much that John had been sitting next to me so I could elbow him about every other word she said. (Never mind that he would have been elbowing me too.) The material, from her new book Rising Strong, was painfully relevant.
According to her, “Our brain is wired to make up a story to explain every difficult human interaction—whether it’s true or not. That story helps us interpret the discomfort by protecting our ego and self-image.”
“We’re not thinking beings that sometimes feel. We’re emotional beings that sometimes think.” Brené Brown
Let me give you an example from our marriage that happened awhile ago.
Me: Did you get my text message about picking up some ketsup while you were at the store and the one from church about xyz who is in the hospital?
John: Text messages??? No, I didn’t get them. I’m not sure if I have my phone, and if I do it’s turned off. And I’m not sure this new phone is delivering text messages. I’ll check. Maybe next week.
Me: That’s ok, Cupcake! I know you don’t like phones and don’t listen to voice mail or pick up texts, but that’s fine because I don’t mind making the extra trip to the store, and even though the person in the hospital has died by now, I’m sure the family won’t mind that you weren’t there with them in their hour of need. You have a lot on your plate. You shouldn’t be bothered with…you know…communicating with the world.
Maybe my response is more like: WHAT IF I was in an ACCIDENT and was dying by the side of the road and trying to REACH YOU to talk to you before I gasped my last breath? You would NEVER know!!! I could DIE AND IT WOULD HAUNT YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LONELY, MISERABLE LIFE!!!!
The story John tells himself about this interaction is: I have healthy boundaries! I’m present to the person I’m with. When I’m with you I’m fully with you.
The story I tell myself about this interaction is: You don’t love or respect me. I’m not important enough for you to be available to me. You don’t care about my needs or my safety (or groceries).
Brown’s advice? Check in! Share the story you think you’re hearing to make sure you’re interpreting correctly.
That’s it. Sound easy? Well, yeah, but I know from experience that it takes courage because when I actually say what I’m feeling out loud it can sound like I’m on the crazy train.
Often our interpretation of what is happening leans towards the most insecure and fearful part of ourselves. What would Satan like better than to keep us spinning around like on the Tea Cup ride at the State Fair, dizzy with lies that divide us?
What if we were to turn both to each other and to God to share the stories we think we’re hearing? What if we were to listen carefully and consider what may be false about the stories we’re telling ourselves?
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Ps. 51:6 NASB
Think of a relationship in your life where there can be misunderstandings. What is a wound or insecurity that influences how you interpret interactions in this relationship?
* In the “great minds think alike” category, my friend Matt Norman posted on this same topic a few weeks ago. He has an awesome blog that you should follow if you don’t already!