In the episode “On Longing, Belonging, and Faith” from Unlocking Us, Brené Brown had two successive conversations with award-winning authors Sue Monk Kidd and Jen Hatmaker where they go over their journey in spirituality—from spiritual loitering, longing, to true belonging. Sue and Jen tell their stories through the characters they’ve written about, and their personal experiences within their religious community.
Read this if...
- You are having doubts about your spirituality
- You are struggling to reconcile your religious faith with your ideas and opinions
- You have experienced backlash for your opinions
Sue Monk Kidd is best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which spent more than one hundred weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and has been adapted into audio, film, and theater.
Jen Hatmaker has one New York Times bestselling book, For the Love. She and her family host the reality show My Big Family Renovation.
the distilld lessons (extended)
Some old values are inconsistent with new ways of life. Science and technology will tell us that. Science and facts were once viewed as works of evil because they contradicted religious principles. Society eventually adopted science and humanity made progress because of it.
Despite the progress that humanity has made, the majority of us remain deeply rooted in spirituality and religion. This can cause conflict when what we consider to be factual and true isn’t consistent with what we believe in.
When our perception of reality conflicts with our faith, which one do we listen to?
In this episode of Unlocking Us, writers Sue Monk Kidd and Jen Hatmaker make the case that we can listen to both. Here are the distilld lessons inspired by the “On Longing, Belonging, and Faith” episode of the Unlocking Us with Brené Brown podcast:
1. Getting lost is part of the journey
Embrace the confusion that comes with keeping an open mind. When we open our minds to new ideas, it can be shocking just how different some of these ideas are to our own. Others are entirely foreign to what we’ve thought for ourselves, while some are directly in conflict with what we believe to be true.
Friction, confusion, and even pain are natural when faced with these ideas. When we remain open to entertaining these ideas and to the possibility of adopting them, instead of shunning them to protect our peace of mind, we do what Jen calls “earning our freedom.”
When we face new ideas head on even when it’s terrifying and confusing, we earn our freedom. Once the fear subsides, we’ll find out that updating some of our beliefs is not necessarily bad. These new ideas don’t turn us into undesirable persons. Instead, they can make us better at relating to other people.
For Jen, she earned her freedom when she took a pro-LGBTQIA+ stance, despite being a devout Catholic. Sue has earned her freedom multiple times with her books and is earning it again in her recent book where she writes about Ana, the wife of Jesus.
The process of adapting to something new can be tricky. We can get lost from time to time on our journey to reconcile our core beliefs. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Getting lost is part of the journey.
2. Work within your ‘largeness’
Our ‘largeness’ is the summation of the things that make us who we are and what makes us unique. Sue says it’s our gift to the world. In her book, The Book of Longings, she says that Jesus and his wife in the novel blessed the largeness in each other. This meant awakening, supporting, and inspiring each other’s uniqueness.
Sue says that she wrote about the largeness not to project it onto a holy figure, but to bring out its human aspect. Sue also has friends who bring out her largeness, and she believes that everyone can bring it out of themselves and the people they’re with.
Some of us may have been conditioned into thinking that we don’t have anything to offer to this world. Our tendency then is to suppress our largeness through self-censorship posing as humility. If we want to integrate our beliefs into our spirituality, we should be confident in what we believe in, to begin with.
Jen, even as a woman of faith, worked within her largeness and stood with the LGBTQIA+. Catholic dogma doesn’t support sexual relations between same-sex couples. It’s a dilemma for Jen, but despite this, she chooses to be firm in her support. She says that women will never flourish if they keep silent just to fit into society.
3. Stand firm in your newly found beliefs
Sue and Jen both received immense and immediate backlash for what they did. Jen had her books pulled out and was ostracized by her religious groups. Sue received several messages on Facebook—one telling her to retract the book and repent for what she’s written and the other calling her viewpoints irrational. Despite these, both women fought for what they believed in.
We can also be catalysts for change even in our small ways. We can’t keep the peace forever. Being silent has a price. When we don’t fight for the truth, we are protecting the lie. This is why a truly neutral stance doesn’t exist. The status quo requires human intervention to produce positivity.
When we apply our beliefs to spread positivity or help others regardless of what scriptures say, we tap into both ancient wisdom and the voice within. When we work within our largeness and stand firmly by it, we take ownership of our spirituality. We can be secure in ourselves and our beliefs.
When we become mindful, pay attention to our instincts, and stand firm in what we think is right, we can update ancient wisdom with our inner voice. When we do this, we can liberate ourselves from our doubts. We can connect with others wholeheartedly and be secure in ourselves.'
For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.