Vulnerability and Shame

I thought it might be good for a season to post links to things I think are edifying, with minimal commentary on my part. As you might imagine, I have a healthy stash of them.

I have mixed feelings about the phenomenon of TED talks, but among them there are some real gems, clear and blessedly brief introductions to a thinker’s substantial work. Here are two good examples, in which Brené Brown presents two vital truths she learned in her work:

  • Vulnerability is the key to living wholeheartedly
  • Shame is what keeps us from being vulnerable

As with many such secular talks, excellent as they might be on their own they leave the Christian viewer to recognize and fill in important gaps. To my mind neither of the talks explained why these truths should be true—what is it about vulnerability that makes it vital? how do we overcome shame? I have my own answers. Briefly stated:

  • We can’t live for others without being vulnerable
  • Following Rene Girard, Jesus through his death made it possible “to found human community on a nonsacrificial principle: solidarity with the victim.” Put another way, shame was once an essential principle for structuring community, but after Jesus it no longer needs to be.
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3 thoughts on “Vulnerability and Shame

  1. On the second point, I think you are correct but not convinced that this is workable in Christian community as I have experienced it. A historical note — historians have noted the correlation between the appearance of Protestant Christianity in Europe and the creation and strengthening of systems of social disciplining among those populations.

  2. Servetus,

    One of the things that blows my own mind is how mind-blowing Christians found it when Girard began publishing his ideas about blame, scapegoating, etc. (at least those who read him). When I squint, I can see the whole history of institutional Christianity might as a series of efforts to re-introduce the sacrificial principles that Jesus did away with.

    Unfortunately, it’s possible to hear this interpretation of what Jesus did, even embrace it in theory, and yet remain in denial about totally rejecting it in practice. Douglas Wilson’s community in Idaho is a good example–there was a time when they were buzzing about Girard, and yet they’ve enthusiastically pursued a downward spiral into totalitarian rule over their congregation and antagonistic posturing towards those outside their fold.

  3. I think Jews are not different, insofar as one telos of Torah is to treat the marginalized person fairly, and many legal debates consist in revolving around this question, yet that certainly is not always the way the Jewish community observed (and observes) the Law.

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