Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What I learned from Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning's All Is Grace might be the most searing memoir I've read. He's at the end of his life: on assisted care, needing the help of a ghost writer. And in this, he offers the gift of candor about the cost of past mistakes that is incredibly helpful to those of us still coming along. I've never seen anyone lay it out as plain and bare as he does.

He was a priest, and then not a priest; a husband, and then not a husband. He traveled the world giving hope-filled lectures about how much God loves us, and then would disappear for days into hotel rooms around the world, drinking himself into oblivion. He admits that he's missing some chunks of his own narrative timeline because pieces of his brain are simply lost to the alcohol. But what he remembers will stick with me, I suspect, forever.

My "favorite" part of this book? Manning provides the clearest understanding of shame I've ever seen. I didn't grow up in a shame-based family, and I've always been grateful for that. But the downside has been that when I find myself in a group where shame is swirling around in the undertow, I'm REALLY slow to catch on.

Manning defines shame as "the sense of being completely insufficient as a person, the nagging feeling that for some reason you're defective and unworthy." He explains how, "in a shame-bound family, love is a moving target: one day it's this and one day it's that, and just when you're sure you've got it figured out, you discover you don't."

I suspect that even those of us who are fortunate enough to come from families where shame is not the dynamic (and here's me, waving at my Mom & Dad and shouting THANK YOU!) we still bump into it somewhere down the line.

So a suggestion: if you're caught in a place that feels like this description above, consider the possibility that shame is dogging you. Get a copy of this book from a bookstore or the library, take out your journal, and ask God for a strategy to fight back. Whatever shame is telling you, it's not the truth.

Okay, end of serious book review!
Thank you for letting me mix it up here on the blog--it's fun living in a world where Brennan Manning & Jerseylicious can coexist :)

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