Patterns fascinate me. This odd obsession was beneficial in college and grad school, where literary criticism depends on spotting the repetition of ideas and themes. It became my nerdy version of I Spy. (“How many imperialistic conversations can you find? Don’t forget the recurring red objects; symbolism is not far behind.”)
There are patterns in life, too. Certain phrases keep floating upward on the page: rejoice, pray, thank. Pause, wait, be still. And now, open, honest, vulnerable.
Brené Brown, a writer and research professor, also loves patterns. Her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are doesn’t emphasize imperfection so much as it does wholehearted living.
Brown shares how she studied the patterns of people who were living fully, and she discovered three key commonalities: courage, compassion, and connectivity. When we are vulnerable, we are courageous; when we care for and forgive ourselves, we can more readily show compassion; and when we’re connected with safe people, we are better able to love and serve others.
So much of what Brown discusses aligns with biblical truth. When we are weak, then we are strong. When we recognize our value as children of God, made in His image, we start seeing everyone else that way, too.
This isn’t a self-help book, but rather, a guide to identifying our patterns of behavior and learning to experience life. Brown says we can’t pick and choose which emotions we feel; shuttering our hearts to pain also inhibits our ability to feel joy. To live wholeheartedly, we need to allow the pain and the joy. And we’ll be stronger for it.
Don’t bother putting this slim book on your to-read list—read it now.
Postscript: In her book Reclaiming Your Heart, Denise Hildreth Jones also writes about living wholeheartedly, and she identifies the different “hearts” each of us develop. This book is another life-changing read.