In September of 2016, I had the absolute honor of seeing Brené Brown speak at a conference. While I had heard of Brené before and had many bookworms telling me how much her books meant to them, it never really stuck to me that she was someone who was on a “need-to-read-basis.”
When I saw Brené speak that day in September, my mind drastically changed. Not just my mind, but something deeper within me. Something that clicked itself into place in the fiber of my being and changed the way I viewed people I interacted with forever. Because of this drastic change, I made the not-so-difficult decision to research and find every single book Brené has written and acquire the ones that spoke to me.
Braving the Wilderness, Brené’s newest novel, was one she made references to throughout multiple points in her presentation. When I heard the basic message behind the novel, I knew I had to buy it. This month, I finally sat down and read it, deciding that I was READY for it. You can’t just pick up life-changing novels on a whim, your heart and soul must decide the timeline for you. Ironically, this was the pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club this month, so really, how could I have timed that any better?
While many of the points Brené makes in the book hit me to my core, forcing literal tears from my eyes and drowning me in “aha!” moments, there was one theme in Braving the Wilderness that stood out among the rest: Compassion for our fellow human beings.
At a time where political polarization is running rampant in our country, spreading us further apart morally and in some cases physically, this book challenged me to think of why. Why is this phenomenon happening? It’s not hard to conclude that it’s happening because differences in opinion leading to a “them versus us” mentality are sown into the fabric of our nation. But what is the cost of all of this discourse? What is the end result? At the end of the day, the end result is a lack of compassion and complete dehumanization.
I will be the first to admit that I am someone who will stand by their beliefs and cast stones at individuals who disagree with me. Under the guise of social justice, I have dehumanized people in my mind. I have funneled an enormous amount of hatred toward Trump supporters. I have belittled people online for their opposing beliefs. I have sought opportunities to argue with people when I know it will just anger them. I have called people names. I have accused them of things they “must be” without truly knowing who they are and what lies at the center of their reasons for acting and saying the things they do. I have done that. And I am tired of carrying around hate if it costs me my compassion and kindness.
I want to make something clear: I am not sorry for fighting against injustices and I do not regret standing up for my beliefs and speaking out against hatred. I believe in myself and my stance on the topics I’m passionate about and I will never falter on them. However, most of my outward actions which put my morals into practice went against my own code of ethics. I need to be better at staying true to who I am regardless of how I feel at the “heat of the moment.” I need to be better so that I can be more effective with my message and so that others can hear what I have to say.
My most important trait I possess is my ability to put kindness into action. That doesn’t mean that I will let people walk all over me. If I feel disrespected, I’ll bite back. BUT… above all, what’s most important to me is that I maintain a level of compassion that speaks volumes to what I stand for regardless of how others treat me.
In the past few months, life circumstances have forced me to take a look at myself and evaluate WHO I want to be and WHAT I want to do about it. Reading Braving the Wilderness was a breath of much needed fresh air, pointing me toward my True North. I was feeling so lost in the “Wilderness”, wondering what my next step would be. But as long as I keep stepping toward kindness and compassion, I know that I will always be on the path I’m meant to travel. Whatever is on that path will challenge me every single day, but the reward will be great.
Thank you, Brené, for getting me through an incredibly hard time in my life. Your voice while I was listening to you narrate your audiobook healed my soul. I felt like you were listening to ME rather than vice versa and I can’t tell you how much that means to me to be heard. Standing in the wilderness won’t be fun and I am standing here alone. But I’m here, I’m present, I showed up, and I’m ready for the adventure.
5/5 stars for this book.