On Facebook yesterday, I linked to an article by Brené Brown. I don’t know how many people followed and read, but the quote I pulled from the story said this:
"If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging." -- Brené Brown (*I emphasized believe)
Ever since, I posted that, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve been wondering if it’s really true. And if it is, what does it really mean? It seems simple enough. I mean, Brené has a PHD, after all. She’s a professor of research and she’s spent ten years studying shame. She says the major difference between the groups of people she’s interviewed: those who live wholehearted lives and experience healthy relationships, and those who are debilitated by shame is that the former group simply believes they’re worth it.
I have yet to read any of her books, but I would like to soon. In the meantime, I’m going to spend some time picking apart this statement and trying to get a handle on the truth beneath it. One more thing I came across that’s relative is that Brené promotes spirituality and being connected to a higher power. Since I’m a Christian, that’s the perspective I’ll be working from.
My first question in reaction to the quote is this: But what if I don’t feel like I’m worthy? Which leads to another: Is feeling different than belief? I think it is, and I’d like to explore those differences a bit first, then I’ll get back to the first question.
Our feelings tend to follow our beliefs, but sometimes they don’t. For instance, I can be sitting on the couch beside my husband some evening. I know that he’s there. I see him. He may even have his hand on my lap. I believe we are sharing the same physical space, but it might not feel like I’m there. If I’m caught up in some drama I lived through at work, and reliving all the specific details in my head, it won’t matter that I’m in the same room with him because all I am feeling at the moment is the stress of that past situation.
In the same way, I believe God loves me. What I’ve studied in the Bible shows me his love is unconditional, and everlasting. But sometimes I don’t feel that’s true. Sometimes I’m afraid that if I don’t act right, he’ll stop loving me. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel true that an all-powerful being who created everything I see actually cares about me and my life.
Feelings are not like light switches, which we can turn on and off at random. Oh, we can pretend to turn them off, but that’s actually just stuffing them. Or we can pretend we don’t have them, but that’s called denial. The truth is, if I jump in cold water, I will feel cold. Emotional feelings work the same way. That doesn’t mean that I am completely controlled by my feelings—I’m still capable of swimming in cold water, or that I have a pass for inexcusable behavior. It just means that I acknowledge they’re there, and are a part of the human experience.
We live in a culture that often uses feelings to justify behavior and while I don’t condone that set of values, I still think it’s beneficial to examine our feelings to see what they are and what, if anything, we can do to change them.