Summer Reading: The Gifts of Imperfection

My first summer reading book for 2013 is The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. It was recommended to me by a friend who shared with me “I was in tears reading the first few chapters” and I knew I needed to get my hands on this one for sure. I wasn’t disappointed.

Brown is a researcher, writer, an active blogger (www.ordinarycourage.com), speaker, and TED talk star. She is most known for her work on shame, and her previous book is entitled I Thought It Was Just Me. This book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, is a profound and practical book for those in search of a “wholehearted” life and grows out of her work on shame. In fact, she’s hoping this book will help stir up a revolution of sorts among those desirous of a healthier way of being oneself and to break the bondage of shame that so often trips us up.

It’s not a distinctly Christian book, but it’s based on spirituality…with an openness to defining spirituality as one sees fit. But, as a Christian I found this book helpful in unpacking the meaning of the second commandment, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” She emphasizes early on that we simply can’t love another more than we are capable of loving ourselves. A radical thought in both our Christian community and in our wider world. It’s important to know and understand ourselves, but there is something even more essential: loving ourselves. With courage, compassion and connection as one’s foundation, she adds how love, belonging and authenticity bring life and light to those terms.

With shame as the primary deterrent to a wholehearted life, Brown describes how secrecy, silence and judgment fuel our propensity toward a shame-based existence. Confronting our fear, blame and disconnection is what builds shame resilience, and by sharing our stories of shame with trusted others we can indeed be set free. And, who among us doesn’t want to be free from living under the harmfulness of shame?

The hope that she offers in the book resides in her ten guideposts for practicing wholehearted living. 1. Cultivate authenticity: let go of what people think. 2. Cultivate self-compassion: let go of perfectionism. 3. Cultivate a resilient spirit: let go of numbing and powerlessness. 4. Cultivate gratitude and joy: let go of scarcity and fear of the dark. 5. Cultivate intuition and trusting faith: let go of the need for certainty. 6. Cultivate creativity: let go of comparison. 7. Cultivate play and rest: let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. 8. Cultivate calm and stillness: let go of anxiety as a lifestyle. 9. Cultivate meaningful work: let go of self-doubt and ‘supposed to.’ 10. Cultivate laughter, song and dance: let go of being cool and always in control.

As far as self-help books go, this is one of the finest. It integrates what Leadership Transformations believes about the gospel, with what we adhere to about the practice of healthy self affection that embraces the Jesus life we are seeking to live as leaders and teams. Open this one with an open heart, mind and pair of ears…and be prepared to prayerfully consider specific application to your own life with God. I’m going to see if I can convince Ruth to join me for dancing lessons!

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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.