I love Dr. Brene Brown. Sheâ€™s the Internet sensation who is an authority in vulnerability. Google her for more. One of her most famous talks has over two million views on TEDâ€™s Youtube page. My wife is reading her latest book, Daring Greatly. She shared with me a powerful section that resonated enough to post some quick thoughts. Dr. Brown talked about people who mask their vulnerability two different ways: Victims and Vikings. Iâ€™m not a fan of pigeon holing people into two camps as a general rule. However, for the sake of this argument, Iâ€™m going to utilize her illustration to make a point and ask a question. Hereâ€™s Dr. Brownâ€™s setup:
“Either youâ€™re a victim in life – a sucker or a loser whoâ€™s always being taken advantage of and canâ€™t hold your own – or a viking – someone who sees the threat of being victimized as a constant, so you stay in control, you dominate, you exert power over things, and you never show vulnerability.â€
As I heard that paragraph, I began to think about people I know who fall into both camps. Brown writes, â€œWith this lens, there are only two possible positions people can occupy – power over and powerless. In the interviews I heard many participants sound resigned to victim simply because they didnâ€™t want to become the only alternative in their opinion – vikings. Reducing our life options to such a limited and extreme roles leaves very little hope for transformation and meaningful change.â€
I know both kinds of people. Iâ€™ve been both kinds before. However, as Dr. Brown asserts, transformation has to be beyond these two extremes. As a leader, I payed special attention when she said, â€œWhen we lead, teach, or preach from a gospel of viking or victim, win or lose, we crush faith, innovation, creativity, and adaptability to change.â€ Make a note of this. Pay attention to this. Wherever we lead, whether an organization, a department, a small group or a family, we need to find balance between the two. Â Key is to be vulnerable as people with other people. Â If we can’t, we’re either a viking or a victim. Â Neither are good.
Stop Being a Jerk
Jesus spends lots of time talking about the upside down Kingdom. Blessed are the weak. Blessed are the poor. His power is shown in our weakness. As a leader, sometimes itâ€™s difficult to balance showing vulnerability and authority. Depending on the day we can come off as either a weakling or a jerk. How can we find the balance so we can have hope for transformation and meaningful change? Especially as 2014 approaches? I have a couple of suggestions:
- Authentic Community. Itâ€™s paramount that you have at least two people on the planet that really know you – warts and all. And that youâ€™ve given them permission to speak into your life. So, when youâ€™re a jerk, they can tell you to your face. Without community, youâ€™re the Emperor in â€œThe Emperor Has No Clothesâ€
- Mentor. Begin with the end in mind, right? Find someone who is older and wiser than you to bounce ideas off of and listen.
- Prayer & Scripture. Iâ€™m an evangelical Christian so I believe that the Bible is Godâ€™s living Word. Taking time to read it, pray and meditate also connect me to deep truth that can help me with a balanced life.
Vulnerability is key in my marriage, my family, my work, and my life. Itâ€™s a careful balance between sharing too much and not sharing at all. But hereâ€™s a newsflash: Youâ€™re not perfect. You donâ€™t know all of the answers. Neither do I. The sooner we accept this and row together through life, the better and stronger our families, churches, departments and organizations will be. Â So, don’t be a wet blanket. Â Or a jerk.
Any other ideas on keeping the balance between viking and victim?