I am a little late to the party. Brene Brown’s videos have been creating quite a buzz, but I only recently watched her most well known one, The Power of Vulnerability. Really phenomenal stuff. I am a fan.
I laugh at her humor and marvel at her succinct articulation of things I have intuitively believed but still questioned all my life. And I feel completely validated by the fact that all of what she says is backed by research.
There is only one thing that I have trouble with. It’s not the validity of the research or the conclusions she makes based on them. It is what those things confirm to me about how the world views love. And I simply wish we saw things differently.
In The Power of Vulnerability, Brene talks about people she calls “whole-hearted”. Basically these are people who live full and satisfying lives with deep, connected relationships. She says that what sets this group apart is a belief that they are worthy of love. Those not in this group, those living disconnected and unfulfilled in their relationships, seem to have a belief that they are not worthy of love.
(There’s more to it than that, but if you are not going to watch the video linked to the blue words above – which you totally should, just hover and click and it will take you there – that summary will have to do.)
I believe I fall in both of these groups at different times and moments in my life. I believe the truth of what Brene proposes that this basic self-assessment has a dramatic affect on our lives.
I just don’t like it.
Because while believing we are worthy or unworthy of love may impact our lives in magnanimous ways, either way we are viewing love as something to be earned. And that is the problem I see in the world, the problem I see in myself.
A misunderstanding of love.
Love does not account for worth. Love is a gift. Truly, no one is “worthy” of it. It cannot be earned. It is not a commodity to be traded for inherent value.
Don’t get me wrong; I think that every human being does have inherent value and worth. I think every human being desires to be loved and needs to be loved and should be loved and is loved.
But that love is not earned by value or worth. In fact, love is distinctly given in spite of those things. That is what makes it love.
Believing we are worthy might help us in life, but it perpetuates a misunderstanding of love. I think the trick is to let ourselves receive love – truly take it in and accept it – regardless of our worthiness of it.
(Normally I would stop here because I have a short attention span as a reader so I try to keep my posts under 500 words. So I promise not to hold it against you if you stop reading here. But I just can’t leave this next part out.)
For me it comes down to moments like this: picture a moment of marital friction. I am furious about something. I want to be right. I am stomping around and screaming because I want my way. And then I realize I am acting like an idiot. And I am sick with myself about it. But I want my way anyway. And I know that in this moment I am unlovablly human.
But my husband comes close to me and touches me tenderly on the shoulders anyway. He tries to pull me in for a hug.
In that moment, what do I do?
Sometimes I push him away because I am so furious and confused and pissey and weak and human and unworthy of love that I refuse to accept it. I only want the love that I think I have earned.
And sometimes, due to some intangible miracle, I let his touch soften me. I let it break me. I let it in past my will and my need to be right and my need to control. And I know I am not worthy of it. But that’s okay. It’s love. I can let it in anyway.
So the question for me is not so much if I believe I am worthy of love, but will I let love in even though I am not worthy of it? Because that’s what love is.