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You Are Enough

Brene’ Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she has spent has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She has a whole chapter in her book Daring Greatly about the metaphorical armor we put on to protect ourselves from being hurt, and how to begin to let it go and become who we were created to be. She says:

As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection – to be the person whom we long to be – we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen… believing we’re “enough” is the way out of the armor – it gives us permission to take off the mask. With that sense of “enough” comes an embrace of worthiness, boundaries, and engagement.

Truth be told, one the things that has haunted me my entire life was the fear that I was not enough.  Perhaps that seed was planted in grade school when people made fun of my glasses and my last name, or when the boys made it clear that girls were “less than.” Or perhaps the seed was planted by a father who was great at saying “good job...but”...  Perhaps the seed was planted when I was about five and attended church with a neighbor friend and came home crying and saying I was going to hell.

Perhaps the seeds were then watered by a society that tries to dictate what beauty looks like and what success looks like, and what a good family looks like. Perhaps they were watered by a church that thought less of women pastors and was prone to holding women up to the obedient Virgin Mary model of perfection.

However the seeds of not-enough-ness were planted and watered, the reality is that they grew in the fertile soil of my insecure ego. Still, as I look back, there are specific moments in my life that stand out when I was able to look deeper than my fragile ego and claim my enough-ness. I fought back against the boys on the playground who made fun of me, earning the knickname Steel Toes in the process. At the age of 21, after four years of being put down and called names by my soon-to-be-step-mother, I finally looked at her and said, “It’s not what you think that counts, it’s what I think.” And, when a male pastor said to me, “That was a pretty good sermon for a woman.” I said, “Well, that was a pretty good compliment from a man.”

I think the crux of the matter is that it’s hard to maintain a sense of enoughness because we’ve tied it to our deeds. Did I do enough for my kids? Did I do enough for my partner? Did I do enough for my church/job/vocation?

Doing something to prove that we're enough completely misses the point because enoughness comes from inside, not from people telling us we’re enough, or getting accolades, or *LIKES* on Facebook, or hits on our website, or (for me) a lot of people in worship on Sunday morning. Enoughness doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes or that there isn't room for improvement. Enoughness means we have enough confidence to live with honesty, integrity and vulnerability, and know that our innate worth doesn’t change if we fail.

Getting to this point of knowing our innate worthiness may mean we have to deconstruct what our parents and playmates and churches have taught us and get back to a basic concept laid out in the first chapter of Genesis. God’s imprint, God’s DNA (as Richard Rohr likes to say)  is in all things and it is very good. We were not created with a “stain of sinfulness.” Adam and Eve was a myth to explain why we’re mortal, why we have to toil the land, why there is pain in childbirth, why we screw up. But our souls, our spirits, are good and beautiful and enough.

We're the only ones that can claim that enoughness. Then perhaps we can begin to affirm the enoughness in others. Somehow this is easier to do with children, say, when we’re teaching them how to cook or plant a garden, or ride a bike. It’s harder for some reason to affirm adults. My friend Tony is really good at affirming someone else when he’s helping them musically. In all the times he’s helped me to learn a lead part on the keyboard, or a vocal harmony part, he’s never given up, never told me I wasn’t good enough to learn it, never ridiculed me for being a slow learner. His confidence in me and his patience has enabled me to be more than I ever could have been.

It is a moment of grace to let others be enough, to affirm their basic humanity and recognize the light in them when it could be easy to let them know that they aren’t good enough.

You are enough, you are very good... and so is everyone else.

Love & Light!

Kaye