Note: This blog was updated in June, 2020.
CF writes: “I have a friend that thinks that Brene Brown is awesome. Can you tell me anything about her? I know she was on Opra’s Super Soul Sunday, TED talks, and has written many books on such things as vulnerability. Is she New Age?”
I have found nothing New Age in the work of Brene Brown although her humanistic viewpoint has been criticized in Christian circles.
For those who never heard of her, Brown is a highly credentialed author, speaker and research professor whose areas of interest include the study of vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. Brown, who has a Ph.D. in social work from the University of Houston, has authored two books: The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden, 2010), I Thought It Was Just Me (Gotham, 2007), and Connections: A Psychoeducational Shame Resilience Curriculum.
Her current research focuses on authentic leadership and wholeheartedness in families, schools and organizations.
She likes to pose the questions: “How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?”
Although I have not read her book, I have read numerous interviews with her about her books and find nothing other than sincere scholarship in these areas and common sense advice on how to be better balanced people in our every day lives.
Unlike the typical New Age self-help guru, she does not advocate use of the mind as a kind of god that can change reality, attract riches, etc. Nor does she claim to have any kind of secret knowledge about the universe.
However, she does reference what some believe is an assertion about our “inner divinity” in her book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. She writes: “And if our faith asks us to find the face of God in everyone we meet, that should include the politicians, media, and strangers on Twitter with whom we most violently disagree. When we desecrate their divinity, we desecrate our own, and we betray our faith. (76, emphasis added)
When I read this phrase, it sounds as if she’s talking about finding the face of God in everyone we meet – with that being the source of their divinity – but other reviewers see it differently.
Her appearance on the Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday is enough reason to make anyone wonder about her, but in this case, linking Brown to the New Age world of Oprah Winfrey would be only “guilt by association” and not associated with her own beliefs.
The fact that her talks are listed with TED, which also hosts talks containing New Age subject matter, also does not indict Brown. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short and powerful talks (18 minutes or less). The talks cover a range of issues from science to global affairs.
One of Brown’s talks on vulnerability made the TED top 20 list of all-time best videos and, again, there was nothing New Age in her approach to the subject.
Brown has mixed reviews among Christians and should be read with caution.
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