Brenè Brown’s Essay On Love Is A Masterclass In Grace

23.10.19

On October 9th, Brenè Brown posted an essay on her website called “Doubling Down On Love”.

You know how there are some people in life that you simply cannot read their work without reading it in their voice? Brenè Brown is one of those people. If you’ve ever seen her Netflix Special ‘Call To Courage’ or one of her viral TED Talks, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. That infectious, charming, irresistibly loveable, thick Texas accent.

Brown’s essay was an explanation – or perhaps more of a confession – as to why she’s been absent from all social media for the better part of two months. She confessed that the events of the El Paso and Dayton shootings in the U.S. (which collectively took the lives of 31 people) had sent her into such a deep sadness and sense of “hollowness” (exacerbated by breaking three of her toes and ending up in a moon boot) that, for a long time, she could not access love. She could not access hope or possibility and instead “had turned to fear, contempt, self-righteousness, and maybe a touch of high-octane disdain to navigate hard news and hard people.” 

The physical and spiritual exhaustion that caused Brown to turn away from love – what she considers “the only fuel source that really works for me” – is something we’ve all experienced at some point in the last 12 months. I remember feeling it in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack as I trawled through stories of survival, letters from Muslim women in the TTC community and heroes like vascular surgeon Adib Khanafer who spent three hours operating on a toddler with gunshot injuries. I remember feeling it in the wake of Grace Millane, when a young girls decision to step out into the world in pursuit of adventure was met with an unimaginable tragedy. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it every time I read another news article about climate change and the enormous task that lies ahead of us.

But as Brown reminds us, when we let “lovelessness” seep into our lives we eventually start poisoning all the good things with the possibility of all the bad things. We grow fearful of what might happen to the people we love and yet, ironically, we submit our loved ones to the very worst versions of ourself. We loose hope. So Brown decided that if she was to return to love and re-position it as her primary fuel source she needed to make some changes. So she devised herself a list. Now, I won’t paraphrase it here, because Brown’s writing is perfect and whole and holy. But what always astounds me is her capacity for grace. And it doesn’t really matter if your problem is lovelessness or something else entirely, we could all benefit from a little more grace: “I’m not afraid to have hard conversations or face pain, but I can be skittish when it comes to inviting joy and grace into my life. Joy fuels love. Grace allows me to reflect. I need to find a way to open that door more often.” Grace is knowing that even though the world is huge and hyper-connected, that hugeness will sometimes make you feel overwhelmed, and when that happens it’s okay to shrink and live small for a while. To move in a smaller circle, to get offline, to exist in a community where your breath and the breath of a few loved ones is enough to warm the entire room. Grace is admitting that your personal pain may cause you to inflict pain on others. It’s like that saying, “If you never heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.” Grace is seeing your faults and flaws and monumental f*ck-ups as par for course, not a breeding ground for shame.

Brown concluded, “Doubling down on love demands that we be brave enough to straddle the tension of staying awake to the struggle in the world and fighting for justice and peace, while also cultivating a love ethic in our own lives.” See what I mean? Perfect and whole and holy.


Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club