Unraveling and other ramblings {Book Club}

It’s finally here!

The chance to start discussing The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown (Yippee!). Today we’re discussing the preface, intro, the three C’s, and exploring the power of love, belonging and being enough. (Next week we will cover “Things that get in the way” and Guidepost #1 and then a guidepost a week after that).

My reading system has flaws, I’ve discovered. Here let me show you.

flaws (Small)

So yeah, basically I’ve written down every page I read as one to refer back to. On the one hand, what a great book! On the other, not so helpful when it comes to leading a discussion that goes a bit deeper than, I loved it all, didn’t you?

Again, I want to say it’s OK not to like something (or all) of what Brene wrote. So, if you disagree with what I’m going to write, or with Brene’, please still participate!

I enjoyed reading in the preface a bit of the background for the book and the way she described not a mid-life crisis, but unraveling. “It’s an unraveling — a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you are ‘supposed’ to live… The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.” Brene’ didn’t limit unraveling to those in mid-life. I know I’ve been on unraveling journey and bet you have too at some point in life. We’ll talk more about that in comments.

Brene’ also described wholehearted living as the work of cultivating and letting go. Oh, we know, don’t we? God gave us two hands and part of the metaphor embedded in them is picking up with one and letting go with the other. And when you live overseas, this can be exhausting, can’t it? The ebb and flow of cultivating someone or project for a short time only to have to let it go and welcome in the next teammate or project or students. Over the long haul, this is soul wearying.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it… Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

From the chapter on Courage, Compassion, and Connection, I love the way Brene’ describes “shame storms,” been there, done that. And the ways shame can cause us to stop believing in our worthiness and instead start hustling for it. If nothing else, I want you to know even though you have families and supporters and locals and who knows who else that depend on you. What you do for them is not what makes you worthy. What you do does not add one iota of worthiness to your soul. You are worthy because you are a daughter of the Most High King and he loves you and your worth is based on that alone. Shame storms are of the devil.

Loved the reminder of the ripple effects of courage? How has someone’s courage helped you?

Brené writes, “This research has taught me that if we really want to practice compassion, we have to start  by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior…It’s also important that we lean into the discomfort that comes with straddling compassion and boundaries. ” Oh my, the straddling we have to do living outside of our cultures and the complex rules that come into play! Is this an area that comes naturally to you? Or is it a fairly constant struggle?

In the chapter on belonging and being enough, she writes that we need to let go of what other people think of our stories to gain access to worthiness. I have found that true in my own life and can share more in the comments. How about you? Have you seen this played out for you or your kids?

I appreciate the distinction Brene’ made between fitting in and belonging and that fitting in can get in the way of belonging. As overseas workers who work with people from all over the world and local people. What has your experience been with figuring out when to change, when to adapt, and when to be true to something deep within you, something you sense God is not asking you to change?

Well if that doesn’t get the ball rolling for a discussion, I don’t know what will :). I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.


P.S. Our next book is going to be a memoir! I was inspired based on our conversation two weeks ago. I’m in the process of contacting the author, will share more when I get details nailed down.

photo credit LollyKnit via flickr


  1. amanda March 3, 2014

    I haven’t read Brown’s book but have heard great things about it from people I respect. Now granted, I am fairly hormonal right now so to bring me to tears is not the hardest of feats, but this line did: “even though you have families and supporters and locals and who knows who else that depend on you. What you do for them is not what makes you worthy. What you do does not add one iota of worthiness to your soul. You are worthy because you are a daughter of the Most High King and he loves you and your worth is based on that alone.” I think this is a truth worth meditating on for me, one I need to come back to over and over again. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Amy Young March 4, 2014

      Amanda, may this truth have been both a balm to your soul and an echo to your heart.  Thanks for commenting even though you have haven’t read. That makes me happy, happy, happy!

    2. Carolyn April 2, 2014

      I’m with you, Amanda… following along and LOVING how these comment discussions are so rich, even though I haven’t had a chance to dive into the actual book yet!  I’m gleaning so many nuggets just from everyone else’s gleaning… each comment has a gem!  Amazing.  And thank you!

  2. Brittany March 4, 2014

    I am really interested in seeing where the discussion goes on this.  At the risk of being vulnerable, I struggled with reading this.  I read it with a very critical eye, and I feel like I might have to read it again before I can add too much to discussion.  Here’s the thing…I really struggle with reading something like this that doesn’t come from a Biblical worldview.  I really have to question, is this Biblical?  (I’m not talking about whether it’s Biblical to read a piece of secular work and bring our own Biblical worldview into it, I’m saying that I have to ask myself whether what the author is presenting is Biblical…make sense?)  It’s a lot of work.  I’ve done one reading of the chapters and I may have to go at it again, but I definitely look forward to hearing what others have to say.

    Maybe this book is going to be so difficult for me because I don’t know how to feel worthy or love myself. The call that we have to deny ourselves, put our flesh to death, knowing that our heart is deceitful above all else…  How do I love myself (or is it okay??) when the core of my being, my very nature, is wickedness?  It’s a daily struggle in my spirit to understand how God loves me and believing He delights in me.  HE alone is Who makes me worthy.  HE makes me lovable.  Anything good in me is from HIM.  So I struggle with this idea of loving myself more when really, it is HE that I want to love more.  I feel like I’ve got to sort through some of this before I can really work through the rest of the book.

    1. Jennifer March 4, 2014


      I think the way that I see this is that my worth does, as you said, come from God. I am ultimately only worthy because of what he did and who he is. But often I do not feel “worthy” but this does not mean that I need to do anything in myself to make myself more worthy or even to feel more worthy. Whether I feel or accept the full reality of what God has done, and who God made me to be, I still am worthy (in his eyes) and I am who he made me to be. What reading this book did for me was to put it simply help me to recognize not things which helped me to feel better about myself or more worthy, but rather helped me to recognize things that stood in the way of me really accepting and living in the reality of what God had done. So for me the focus was not on me, but on God. I would not be afraid to read on. It does not read like or treat the issues it discusses as a “self-help” book, or simply aim to improve self esteem. In many ways it seemed to take the focus off self, and God is not excluded from the picture. That is just my take on that right now.

    2. Jessica Hoover March 4, 2014

      Brittany, I think that it is good to come at this book with a critical eye particularly in terms of consistency with Scripture and what God says about us.

      I read it with a bit of a different lens. I think that a lot of times when a writer, secular or otherwise, hits on something that resonates deeply with the heart struggle of people that you will oftentimes find that it serves to confirm what Scripture has to say about us and our struggle as humans.

      Of course that isn’t every book or every bit of research, but as I read I felt this really strongly with Brown’s writing. So much of my experience with fear and anxiety has been helped and healed by many of the very same themes that Brown is talking about. I found that help and healing in Scripture not from Brown. Her research, though secular, seems to confirm and affirm many of my own experiences.

      Keep that critical eye. We do need to be watchful. However, don’t let it be source of fear while reading. I’m excited to hear more of your journey through this book and what you have to say.

    3. Amy Young March 4, 2014

      Dear precious Brittany, for that is who you are. Precious!

      I hope we all approach any book with a discerning eye/ear. I have found some of the most bogus heretical nonsense is “Christian” books and some of the deepest truth in “secular” stuff. I agree that we need to be on guard with what we put into our minds and hearts … because, as you shared, from it comes the things we believe.

      I don’t want to rush in to your comment and slap Christian platitudes all over it! One of the reason I chose this book is because Brene’/the book provide a launching pad for discussions I want to have (meaning as a person who wants to be engaging God and others and growing and maturing) and want to have with others! And want others to have. Am I making any sense?

      And worthiness is foundational! Yes, our hearts are deceitful — but that’s because of sin and the fall. Originally, we were bestowed with the honor of being made in the Imago Dei — image of God. My hearts flutters and take a GIANT suck in of air at that one! You, me, everyone reading this was made to bear God’s image. He deems us worthy of bearing it. And somehow, by loving ourselves more (not in the “Wow, I’m all that AND a bag of chips” or “I am a great gift to the world, you’re welcome!”), but in truly loving and being compassionate to ourselves, we are loving God. Loving his creation and loving his children. You know when you see a precious little one and you just JOY in seeing them. In seeing how sweet and innocent and just lovely they are?! Simply because they are. I think we can have that same gentleness towards ourselves and it’s not sinful pride. It’s humble acceptance of what God has already said it true.

      Please, please feel free to keep dialoguing (either this week or over the weeks) — we might not agree on everything :). That’s ok! But maybe in our chat we will push each other further towards God and each other. If there is something you’d like to chat about/share but this forum is a bit public, you can email me at messymiddle (@) gmail.com

      Thanks for your adding to this conversation! Amy

      1. Brittany March 4, 2014

        Thank you, ladies, for being so loving and gentle in your responses!  I think that this whole topic is going to be hard for me because I know it is going to dig up some things I don’t want brought to the surface.  How much easier it would be to, while getting dirty with the digging, be refreshed with the truth of Scripture simultaneously!  It’s what I’m used to.  Those are the kinds of books my mom always read.  There’s always been this division between sacred and secular in forms of media.  It’s more work (albeit a healthy practice for sure) to do the work of searching the Scriptures yourself and asking the Spirit to lead you through as study such as this.

        I’m not going to give up.  Thank you for your encouragement and prodding.  This will be a new experience for me which brings about some fear and trepidation.  But I am praying that the Lord opens my eyes to a right view of myself in light of the Gospel and in light of who He is.

  3. Kimberly Todd March 4, 2014

    It’s both, isn’t it? We are created in the image of God from…dust. We are worthy and we are dust. Looking back over what I marked up in these sections, I’m struck by that theme: the ability/choice of the wholehearted to not only live with but to embrace the tension of both/and. It’s being tender and vulnerable and developing knowledge and claiming power. We are both healer and wounded, those who offer help and those in need of help. Compassionate people are boundaried people. Loving ourselves is loving our children. The author draws conclusions based on shared experiences of many and it rings true. I can see how I’ve proved over and over either through failure or progress that these ideas have merit. I really liked this book.

    1. Amy Young March 4, 2014

      Kim, you used some of my favorite words!!! Tension and both/and — um, there’s a reason my blog is called the Messy Middle! Yes, yes, yes. We are called to live with the tension of the already and not yet. That we are both Dust AND Worthy. (Now that would be an interesting tattoo to start conversations if I was the tattooing type … “worthy dust”).

      One of the kindest description someone gave of my dad after he died was “he was a common man who lived an extraordinary life.” We are not called/asked to be more than common … but in the daily offerings of our commonness, they add up over the span of time to be extraordinary in the same way God infuses life into dust.

      1. Carolyn April 2, 2014

        Wow, Amy… love this.  “Worthy dust.”  Yes.  And who your dad is… and was on this earth… is inspiring and powerful.

    2. laura March 8, 2014

      The tension of both/and.  I am right there in so many areas of my life right now.  Something tells me that I should get used to it as I will probably stay there for a long while, if not forever.

      Worthy dust.  I’m in!

  4. Jessica Hoover March 4, 2014

    Yes, what others think of our stories can definitely affect how we do or do not tell that story. I think about so many things that I have struggled to articulate because of the voices in my head that tell me that I will be “misunderstood” or that it will just fall flat. I struggle with the voice that says “She can say it better than you.” It is something that I have been working on and really watching God work on in me, but it continues to be sore spot.

    1. Carolyn April 2, 2014

      Oooo.  This one hits home for me too, Jessica.  “Why should I say it when it’s already been said so many times before?”  Just read Holly Gerth’s answer to that on an (in)courage post: “Yes, but it hasn’t been said by YOU.”  Hah!  True, but still hard to believe people will really want to listen!

  5. JulieB March 4, 2014

    I appreciate all of the comments.  Ah yes…..that struggle between what we consider “sacred” and “secular”.   We should always have our minds engaged whether we are reading or watching a movie, listening to a lecture or a sermon.    Just because a book is “Christian” and contains scripture we still need to be discerning as to whether this is really Truth.  I agree Amy, writing that we consider “sacred” is sometimes the most subtle heresy and we often swallow it whole.  My husband has been my role model in always keeping alert and engaged in looking for Truth.  When our kids were little and we would have family movie nights, he would often stop the movie and ask questions  about what we just saw.  (Our kids used to ask him, “Ok Dad, tonight can we watch the movie all the way through and then talk at the end?”)  I appreciate his attitude and as a result our now adult children are thinkers –  although some of them have said that dad forever ruined them in being able to veg out and watch a movie! haha!

    I like this book in that it is keeping my mind engaged as I read it.  There is deep truth presented, perhaps not in the complete fullness of Scripture, but this is where our comments and our application of the Truth as we discuss it, will give us all a fuller picture.  Thank you and keep those great comments coming.  This is what makes being in a book club so much fun as we stretch out of our comfort zones and discuss what resonates with us, compare it with what Scripture says, and hear one another’s points of view.

  6. Elisa April 16, 2014

    Man, was this section just packed with quotes that made me stop and really consider how I’m living or not living “whole-heartedly for Jesus”.  So many quotes poked at my perfectionistic pious.  Although this is a secular book I found so many things that made me stop and rehearse the gospel to myself.  I too struggle with the tension between being called both “saint” and “sinner”.  I can take either descriptor of my identity too far but both are true and not mutually exclusive at all.  God and the Bible calls me both.  I’m a person that tended to find more “fake-comfort” in shaming myself to do what was right instead of walking in the freedom joined with accountability that I find in the Word.

    One way the Lord really got through to me on this subject recently was by a simple phrase that someone used at our conference in Thailand concerning conflict and peacemaking.  The speaker used the phrase: “you cannot accuse the saints”.  He then went on to explain that if we all lived by this we would realize that we cannot accuse other Christ-f0llowers and that by thinking this way we might handle conflict in a more God-honoring way.  I really took this phrase to heart and realized that if I couldn’t “accuse the saints”  that meant that I couldn’t accuse a teammate or myself either because being a saint is part of my identity in Him.  This really helped me start to change how I approached myself and others.

    And oh how the following quotes really stopped me dead in my reading-tracks:

    1)  “being able to be a person that receives help (not just give it p. 20-21)

    2)”compassionate people are boundaries people”:  I think compassionate people should be people with good boundaries.  I’m not sure I would have put it this way.  Any thoughts on this quote, ladies?

    3) “how I can isolate myself and rob myself of joy by “playing down the exciting stuff” in my life thinking all the while that I’m”practicing humility”.  Nope, I’m creating a human illusion of humility though.

    Love this book.  It’s not comfortable to read but it does make me think and I found myself when stopped by a quote.  Taking that quote back to the Word and even sometimes getting out “The Gospel Primer for Christians” to read along side this one. 🙂  It helped to keep me grounded. Thanks Amy for helping us walk through this book together!

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