Five Lies Our Culture Tells

The cultural roots of our political problems.

It’s become clear in the interim that things are not in good shape, that our problems are societal. The whole country is going through some sort of spiritual and emotional crisis.

College mental health facilities are swamped, suicide rates are spiking, the president’s repulsive behavior is tolerated or even celebrated by tens of millions of Americans. At the root of it all is the following problem: We’ve created a culture based on lies.

Here are some of them:

Career success is fulfilling. This is the lie we foist on the young. In their tender years we put the most privileged of them inside a college admissions process that puts achievement and status anxiety at the center of their lives. That begins advertising’s lifelong mantra — if you make it, life will be good.

Everybody who has actually tasted success can tell you that’s not true. I remember when the editor of my first book called to tell me it had made the best-seller list. It felt like … nothing. It was external to me.

The truth is, success spares you from the shame you might experience if you feel yourself a failure, but career success alone does not provide positive peace or fulfillment. If you build your life around it, your ambitions will always race out in front of what you’ve achieved, leaving you anxious and dissatisfied.

I can make myself happy. This is the lie of self-sufficiency. This is the lie that happiness is an individual accomplishment. If I can have just one more victory, lose 15 pounds or get better at meditation, then I will be happy.

But people looking back on their lives from their deathbeds tell us that happiness is found amid thick and loving relationships. It is found by defeating self-sufficiency for a state of mutual dependence. It is found in the giving and receiving of care.

It’s easy to say you live for relationships, but it’s very hard to do. It’s hard to see other people in all their complexity. It’s hard to communicate from your depths, not your shallows. It’s hard to stop performing! No one teaches us these skills.

Life is an individual journey. This is the lie books like Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” tell. In adulthood, each person goes on a personal trip and racks up a bunch of experiences, and whoever has the most experiences wins. This lie encourages people to believe freedom is the absence of restraint. Be unattached. Stay on the move. Keep your options open.

In reality, the people who live best tie themselves down. They don’t ask: What cool thing can I do next? They ask: What is my responsibility here? They respond to some problem or get called out of themselves by a deep love.

By planting themselves in one neighborhood, one organization or one mission, they earn trust. They have the freedom to make a lasting difference. It’s the chains we choose that set us free.

You have to find your own truth. This is the privatization of meaning. It’s not up to the schools to teach a coherent set of moral values, or a society. Everybody chooses his or her own values. Come up with your own answers to life’s ultimate questions! You do you!

The problem is that unless your name is Aristotle, you probably can’t do it. Most of us wind up with a few vague moral feelings but no moral clarity or sense of purpose.

The reality is that values are created and passed down by strong, self-confident communities and institutions. People absorb their values by submitting to communities and institutions and taking part in the conversations that take place within them. It’s a group process.

Monica Lewinsky: ‘Bill Clinton didn’t have to change his name’

The anti-bullying advocate tells John Oliver that no one asked the former president if he’d consider a new identity

Monica Lewinsky wonders why people don’t ask her the same questions as Bill Clinton.

John Oliver, host of HBO’s T, +0.36%  “Last Week Tonight,” asked Lewinsky on Sunday evening about the difficulty getting a job after completing her Master of Science degree at the London School of Economics in 2006, and asked her if she ever considered changing her name.

.. She also said it was a matter of principle, given that no one asked Clinton that question. “I think that’s an important statement,” she said. “I’m not proud of all the choices I’ve made in my life, but I’m proud of the person I am. I’m not ashamed of who I am.”

Lewinsky said it was sexist that the scandal was named after her rather than Clinton. “As hard as it has been to have that last name sometimes, and the pain that I have felt that what it’s meant for the other people in my family who have that last name, I am glad I didn’t change it,” she added.

.. But Lewinsky also said there may have been an upside to Facebook FB, -3.55% and Twitter existing in 1998 when her relationship with Clinton became public. “I might have heard some support from some people,” she said. “It would have been more balanced.”

.. Still, she told Oliver that the media representation of her became more and more detached from her real persona. She described it as a form of identity theft. “It was a shit storm,” she said. “It was an avalanche of pain and humiliation.”

“Not to say I wasn’t flawed, or make terrible mistakes or do stupid things, or say stupid things, because of course I did,” she added. Lewinsky said the scandal is referenced somewhere on a daily basis. “Because the scandal has my name,” she added, “I’m forever attached to it.”

Brené Brown

Listening to shame | Brené Brown (2012)

Vulnerability:
  • Vulnerability is not weakness. It is our most accurate measure of courage.
  • Vulnerability is the birthplace of
    • innovation,
    • creativity, and
    • change.
Shame: has focus on self.  Guilt is focus on behavior.
  1. Shame has two scripts:
    • You are never good enough.
    • Who do you think you are?
  2. Shame is correlated with:
    • addiction,
    • depression,
    • violence,
    • aggression,
    • bullying,
    • suicide,
    • eating disorders.
  3. Shame is organized by gender:
    • For women is not being able to do it all perfectly while never letting them see you sweat.
    • Shame for men is appearing weak.
  4. Shame is fed by
    • secrecy,
    • silence, and
    • judgement.

The antidote to Shame is Empathy.

The power of vulnerability: TEDx Houston (2011)

(Jan 2011) Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

 

Brené Brown: Create True Belonging and Heal the World with Lewis Howes (2017)

 

Whenever there is not love and belonging there is suffering.

Belonging:

  • Belonging is being part of something bigger than yourself, but belonging is also the courage to stand alone.
  • Belonging never asks us to change who we are.
  • Fitting in can mean betraying yourself if it asks us to change who we are to belong.

Teams and Groups can deliver the illusion of belonging.

If you become so adaptable that the goal of adapting is to make you like me, you betray yourself.

There are two kinds of kids:

  1. Kids who ask for help
  2. Kids who don’t

Lewis: my way was of asking was getting angry, mad, and lashing out, turning fear into rage and ploughing over others

  • In 3rd or 4th grade, Lewis was shamed by getting picked last in a dodgeball game
  • He turned his loss into fuel for athletics, eventually playing football in the NFL.
  • He felt like every loss was an attack on his life because he feared he couldn’t be accepted.
Vulnerability
  • Involves: uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure
  • You can’t be a courageous leader if you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable

The ability to opt-out of talking about Charlottesville and having it “not affect her” is the definition of privilege.

  • Charlottesville is about powerlessness

I can’t imagine a way though the next decade that doesn’t involve dealing with pain. (34 min)

James Baldwin: people hold on to their hate so stubbornly because once they let it go their is nothing but pain.

After a difficult breakup while at college, Lewis took out his rage on the football field.

Every social crisis, almost without exception, is about our inability to deal with our pain:

  • Opioids: physicians
  • Medicated, addicted, in debt, obese.

Our inability to deal with pain and vulnerability is what leads to many problems.

The football team that acknowledges its vulnerabilities will be more successful.

Charlottesville comes down to identity, belonging, and power.

  • This is the concept of “power-over”‘s last stand
  • last stands are violent, desperate
  • nostalgic: “It was so much better when people knew their place”

We can’t solve the next issues with national solutions

 

Vulnerability is not weakness.  It is about the willingness to be seen when you can’t control the outcome.

When you experience shame:
  • Talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love.
  • Talk to someone else: shame can not respond to being spoken

You either own your story or it owns you.

What is Greatness?
  • Greatness is owning your story and loving yourself though that.

 

Brené Brown Shows You How To “Brave the Wilderness” (2017)

(Warning: There is swearing in this video)

 

Dehumanization is not a social justice tool (15 min)

Police-Protester Dichotomy: shaming us for not hating the right people.

I’m not going to let my imperfection move me away from the conversation because its too important

I contributed more than I criticized.

There is a difference between holding people accountable and shame.

Shame is not a strategy.  It will hurt them and you.  Shame begets shame.

Holding people accountable is not as much fun as raging against them.

There should be more tools in your tool bag than shame and coddling. (25 min)

Psalm 109: Prayer for Vindication and Vengeance

Do not be silent, O God of my praise.
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
    speaking against me with lying tongues.
They beset me with words of hate,
    and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me,
    even while I make prayer for them.[a]
So they reward me evil for good,
    and hatred for my love.

They say,[b] “Appoint a wicked man against him;
    let an accuser stand on his right.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
    let his prayer be counted as sin.
May his days be few;
    may another seize his position.
May his children be orphans,
    and his wife a widow.
10 May his children wander about and beg;
    may they be driven out of[c] the ruins they inhabit.
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
    may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.
12 May there be no one to do him a kindness,
    nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.
13 May his posterity be cut off;
    may his name be blotted out in the second generation.

14 May the iniquity of his father[d] be remembered before the Lord,
    and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15 Let them be before the Lord continually,
    and may his[e] memory be cut off from the earth.
16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
    but pursued the poor and needy
    and the brokenhearted to their death.
17 He loved to curse; let curses come on him.
    He did not like blessing; may it be far from him.
18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat,
    may it soak into his body like water,
    like oil into his bones.
19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself,
    like a belt that he wears every day.”

20 May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
    of those who speak evil against my life.
21 But you, O Lord my Lord,
    act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
    because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
    and my heart is pierced within me.
23 I am gone like a shadow at evening;
    I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees are weak through fasting;
    my body has become gaunt.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
    when they see me, they shake their heads.

26 Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
27 Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it.
28 Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame;[f] may your servant be glad.
29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save them from those who would condemn them to death.

Related:

David Perdue’s Prayer for President Obama