On this episode of Unlocking Us
In this episode, I talk to two women who provide wise counsel for those of us who have struggled with belonging and faith (and still do on occasion). Sue Monk Kidd and Jen Hatmaker are dissident daughters, brave leaders, and the very best companions for a contemplative journey.
Listen to the episode
The Book of Longings is a novel Sue Monk Kidd was born to write—a powerfully imagined, beautifully composed, fully realized story of a young woman who realizes her passion and potential against great odds. The novel takes up many of the signature themes of Kidd’s fiction: feminism, the bonds between women, the search for self, and the quest for one’s voice and purpose in life. In particular, this novel explores the longings and “largeness” within women, addresses the importance of women’s stories and voices, and encourages readers to grapple with the inherent sexism in society and western religion.
Fierce, Free and Full of Fire: The Guide To Being Glorious You Jen Hatmaker provides readers with a detailed roadmap to reconciling their inner convictions and outer presentations. Stuck in people-pleasing or fear, many women hide and pretend, then end up sidelined in their own lives. But what they want is to be brave, to claim every gift, dream, quirk, and emotion inside, to stop performing and start living. Throughout the book, Jen dives into tough questions and provides thoroughly researched psychological tools as she explores the ripple effects of patriarchy, conflicting messages women receive, body image, loneliness and why asking for help is so hard.
When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
Essential Writings by Thomas Merton
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Judy Chicago exhibit, Brooklyn Museum of Art
Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879) – Learn more here.
Production by Cadence13
Brené Brown: Alright, let’s talk about the episode today. Wow, I’m not even sure where to start, y’all. When I heard that Sue Monk Kidd and Jen Hatmaker had books coming out on the same day, I was like, “Of course they do.” Because talking about Dissident Daughters, if you know Sue Monk Kidd’s books, you’ll know that’s a reference to one of her books about struggling with faith and patriarchy and religion and finding voice. Sue Monk Kidd was the first person to teach me that I could love God, even be in a relationship with church, and question some of the man-made rules. And by man-made, I mean man-made rules. She taught me that sometimes the search for myself and my own voice was going to piss people off, and that included in houses of worship.
BB: Jen Hatmaker was someone who in recent history taught me what it looks like to find your voice and hold your ground in the midst of people threatening you, your home, your faith. Not your faith. Your worshipping home, which is different than your faith. What happens when you’re threatened with a loss of belonging, and you have to choose doing what you believe is right and in alignment with your faith and belief versus what the man-made, again, parts of faith and belief say. So, what I’ve done is, I’ve combined these episodes. So, I’m going to talk to Sue Monk Kidd first, then I’m going to talk to Jen about both of their new books and also just about their lives and who they are as, to me, incredible, incredible guides for me on my journey.
BB: So, let me just give you a little specific information about Sue Monk Kidd. You may know her from The Secret Life of Bees, which spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers List, sold more than 6 million copies in the US, and was turned into an award-winning motion picture and a musical. It’s been translated into 36 languages. Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, was the number one New York Times best seller and was adapted into a television movie. Her third novel, The Invention of Wings, which was an Oprah Book Club 2.0 pick, was also a number one best seller. Her memoirs, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, which was again, ground-breaking work on religion and feminism; and the New York Times best seller that she wrote with her daughter, Traveling with Pomegranates, beautiful.
BB: I will tell you that her book, When the Heart Waits, it wasn’t my midlife, dark night of the soul companion, it was my feet, it was my umbrella, it was my everything during my midlife kind of spiritual breakdown-slash-uprising, maybe. And so, join me in this conversation with Sue Monk Kidd. I think you…I know you will find her as compelling, brilliant, and planted – I can’t think of another word – as anyone you’ve ever met, talked to, listened to, read. Sue Monk Kidd.
BB: I’m a little bit starstruck, so I’m going to take my deep breaths. It’s so funny because sometimes when I meet people at events, the first thing they say to me is, I feel like I know you. Do you get that a lot, Sue?
Sue Monk Kidd: Oh yes, all the time.
BB: Okay, because I feel like I know you.
SMK: Yes, and they know a lot more about me than I know about them, so it is kind of weird, you know?
BB: Yeah, no, it’s completely weird. You have walked with me on some very treacherous paths in my life.
SMK: Is that right?
BB: Yeah, so let me start by saying thank you.
SMK: Oh, you’re welcome.
BB: Man, have you been a guide for me. I have to start with a couple of quotes that I keep near and dear to me, going all the way back to When the Heart Waits. Tell me about that book for you.
SMK: I think every book I write is a scary prospect, and I keep upping the ante [chuckle] all the time. Even when I wrote When the Heart Waits, it was a venture for me into some unknown territory, because it was about contemplative spirituality, and really had a theme in it of Jungian-depth psychology that I was very interested in, and I grew up in an evangelical church. So, this was like going to the moon or something to write this book. So, there was that, which it’s always good to have to take a deep breath before you write something, that’s probably a good sign. But the book was very important to me, to write this book. It was deeply honest, and it was my interpretation of my process, my own process, that felt classic to me. It felt universal, but I didn’t really grasp that until I began to meet readers who would say, “That was my journey. That felt like you were talking right about my own experience.” So that was, in a way, both startling and deeply satisfying. [chuckle] Because I realized that it was a kind of universal experience, and the deeper we go into our own individual journey, the more likely we are to hit the universal.
BB: Okay, so, can you say that again? Because that is absolutely…if I look back on 20 years of my career, that is an absolute truth. Can you say it again?
SMK: The deeper we go into our own experience, our own journey, the more likely we are to hit the universal. It’s a strange, almost counterintuitive idea.
SMK: But if we can look very deeply into our very specific, particular journey and know it as an authentic process, there is the universal in there, and we will likely hit it.
BB: I have to say that for me, I read When the Heart Waits – the whole title is, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions – I read that during my midlife unraveling, when I just couldn’t carry the armor anymore. The perfecting and the pleasing and the proving was too much to bear, and it literally sat on my nightstand, and I had to be able to see it when I woke up during that crisis, because if I didn’t see it, I felt untethered. I want to read just a couple of quotes to you from that book, your words. “I realized that the heart of religion was setting up an honest dialogue with uniqueness of one’s soul and finding a deeply personal relationship with God, the inner voice, the inner music that plays in you, as it does in no one else.” Oh. It’s a lot of digging to get to the inner music that plays inside of us.
SMK: Yes, indeed. It’s a beautiful experience to find the music. It plays differently in every person, but I really think that the root to that is often through this quieter, more contemplative experience, at least it was for me.
BB: Me too.
SMK: But I just love so much hearing your story about that. It’s kind of awesome to me to hear that.
BB: I’ve got to share one more quote from that book because it really was…I don’t know, anyone that’s hit mid-30s, I’m like, this is the first book you need to read right here. This is your midlife companion. Okay, so I have always been, Sue, my entire life, very focused, driven, ambitious, kinda type A ,and this sentence…I don’t know, this sentence undid me. “To know exactly where you’re headed, may be the best way to go astray. Not all who loiter are lost.”
SMK: Yes. I had to learn to loiter. I started trying to dress it up and call it creative loitering or spiritual [laughter] loitering or something to make it more palatable to me. But it’s true, some of the best stuff, the best conversations with our soul, happen when we’re loitering around. In my life there’s always been a conflict that rages in me, sometimes, it’s quieter in other times, between this urge to do just what you were talking about, to go. I too was very ambitious, driven, always doing and doing. And then, the other side of me is fighting that, wanting desperately to loiter, to sit quietly and contemplate the God spark somewhere inside of me, to just be still.
SMK: So, there’s always some conflict in probably every human heart, and that’s where the real stories are, you know? And I was always going back and forth with that, trying to find the balance and the wholeness. So, [chuckle] especially with motherhood, when you’re running around just with little toddlers or growing…or teens or any kids, I remember that. And I have a painting that really represents that for me. I bought this painting and it’s of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and she is [chuckle] sitting in a very bright red dress and she has a baby kind of…You know how you can put one on your hip and just put your arm around it, but you’re busy doing something else?
BB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. For sure.
SMK: And she has a book open, reading it with the other hand, and I thought, “There I am,” you know?
BB: Yeah. [chuckle] oh yeah.
SMK: Is it book or baby, baby or book, what’s it going to be?
SMK: Because there was always this pull in me.
BB: Oh, well, no one writes the pull like you do, I can tell you for sure. We’re going to work our way quickly, but we’re going to work our way to your new book, The Book of Longings. I want to walk the path with you for just a minute, if you’ll indulge me on that, because for me, as someone who is a very devoted reader of your work, I can see how the path brought us to The Book of Longings. So, then, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. Dang. [chuckle] That was a risky book.
SMK: Well, that was my first taking my own breath away. I’ve said so many times that every woman must take her own breath away at least once in her life, and I thought that was mine. No, it wasn’t. It was The Book of Longings, [chuckle] but at the time, it felt like this one and I remember sitting at my computer…I mean, I wrote this book, it’s 20… Let’s see, 24 years old.
BB: Is it really?
SMK: It really is. It came out in 1996, but I was writing it in the years before that even. And I remember sitting there writing these things and thinking, “I cannot believe I am writing this, but by God, I’m writing it.”
BB: Yeah, you wrote it. Let me read a quote from you that’s one of my favorite quotes, and there’s so many. I mean, that book is more highlighted than it is not highlighted for me. You write, this is The Dance of The Dissident Daughter, “There is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming, but more than that, birthing the kind of woman who can authentically say, ‘My soul is my own,’ then embody it in her life, her spirituality, and her community, it’s worth the risk and hardship.”
SMK: Yes, it is. You wonder at times, but yes. I think that is a speaking of a universal or a classic archetypal woman’s journey right there.
BB: Yes, that’s it. All of it, right there in that quote, right?
SMK: Yes, I mean, it’s coming to own our own soul, to find our belonging in ourselves, to belong to ourselves, and to know ourselves and to voice that and to stand by that. It’s all a journey.
BB: Okay, so then let’s talk about the crazy success, your next book, The Secret Life of Bees.
SMK: Yeah. Who would think? [chuckle] That was such a surprise.
BB: Was it?
SMK: Oh yes. Of course it was. [chuckle] Because it was my first novel. I remember telling my mother that I just wanted to write a book that would be respectable, and she would like to read, and it would have a nice little readership. I never in my life imagined it would have that many readers in the end.
BB: I have the stats somewhere in here, hold on, let me look. Spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list, sold more than 6 million copies, which is completely rarefied air. I mean, the rarest of rarefied air, and turned into award-winning major motion picture and a musical, and has been translated into 36 languages. What is it about that book that speaks to us so beautifully?
SMK: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve tried to think about this, and I think there are mysteries about what resonates in people. But that book is about, for me anyway, it’s about the search for a world-mothering spirit in us, it’s about goodness, it’s about finding love, it’s about finding a home where you least expect it. Maybe not the one you’re born into, but the real home. These are longings, are yearnings in the human soul. And so, it must have resonated very deeply with people. If I could write a book that touches the soul, then I’m happy. I mean, people talk about learning things from novels, and I’m all for that. I want people to learn things from my books that they didn’t know maybe, but what I really hope for is what Kafka called the ice axe on the frozen sea. I want it right in the heart, to touch the soul, if I possibly can. That’s where life is transformed and enlivened, where we come alive, or go on a journey, or start the conversation with ourselves.
BB: Yeah, world-mothering spirit. For me, the ice axe on the frozen sea, which is such a beautiful quote, The Mermaid Chair, your next book. Wow, I got to the point where I had to be willing to smell the marsh to open that book. [chuckle] You just took me into this marsh, and it wasn’t just the physical marsh, it was emotional marsh for me.
SMK: Oh, that’s interesting, Brené.
BB: Tell me what that book meant to you.
SMK: Yeah. Well, I have a, as I said, this contemplative side, and I loved to hang out in monasteries, believe it or not. I loved them. And Thomas Merton, who was a Trappist monk, very significant in my formation, I guess you would say, spiritual formation in my life. Reading his writings, I began my, what I’ll call my contemplative journey, when I was 29. So, the whole monastic world was just vivid for me. You know, Merton had an interesting experience in the later years of his life, where he fell in love and had a relationship of some sort with a young woman that brought his feminine side alive, I mean, it brought Merton alive in some interesting ways, and a lot has been written about it. So I thought to myself, [chuckle] what if I reverse that? And I tell the story of Jessie, who’s been in mid-life marriage, who falls in love with a monk. What kind of crisis would she land in, how would she respond to that crisis? What would it do to her marriage, what would it do to her soul? Plus, I get to write about the whole monastic environment, so that pleased me. So that’s what I did. I see that story as a woman’s search to belong to herself. That’s how I see it.
BB: Oh, it was…Yes, I can see that, completely.
SMK: Yeah, I mean, there’s a line in it where she says, “All my life, I had tried to complete myself with other people, and now I just want to belong to myself.” And that is part of the journey too, you know, just…it’s a different, more complex kind of belonging. I mean, of course, we want to have belonging with people, but the ultimate belonging is with our own soul.
BB: And that’s the really long walk, right?
SMK: Oh, yeah. The tough one.
BB: That’s the tough one. Okay, I want to go to…because I want to make sure we can talk about this new book because, man, did you just take it on? Tell me about writing with Ann, your daughter, and Traveling with Pomegranates.
SMK: So my daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, and I wrote this memoir together, which we call a mother-daughter story, but it’s also a story of two women at opposite ends of life.
SMK: Ann was right out of college, and I was turning 50, and we went off on this journey together to Greece, and it turned into this extraordinary experience of re-finding one another in our lives, in new ways.
BB: As adults, right? It was different, yeah.
SMK: As adults, that’s right. But it was also me searching for my third act, I guess you’d say. I was at a creative stand still, sort of. My writing had gone to seed, and Ann was looking for what she was supposed to do with her life, I was looking with what I’m supposed to do with the rest of my life. And so, it’s kind of a spiritual journey, and I guess I would also say I was over there looking for Black Madonnas like crazy and discovering feminine divine imagery, which was very exciting to me. And so it informed the writing of The Secret Life of Bees. That’s why a Black Madonna turns up in The Secret Life of Bees. So that was a rich experience and many layered memoir, I guess.
BB: How was the creative process of writing together?
SMK: Very interesting. We joked that whenever we told people we were writing a book together, the first thing they would say was, “Well, are you two still speaking?” Which says a lot about mother-daughter experiences.
BB: Yeah, it does.
SMK: But we managed to avoid all of that, and not only were we still speaking, I just learned so much about her, and it was an intimate experience, so that we, I think became closer through the writing of it, even though we disagreed about some things, sometimes. I gave her a card and set it on her desk, and it was a quote by Anais Nin that said, “The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” And I said, “That is what we are here to do with this book.” And so, we did our best, and she would write one chapter, her chapter, and I’d write mine, and then we’d switch them and read each other’s work and give feedback. That was kind of how it went, and it was a great experience. I hope we can write another one together.
BB: Me too. Okay, The Invention of Wings.
SMK: Yeah, The Invention of Wings happened because I was in the Brooklyn Museum in New York, with the Judy Chicago exhibit.
BB: Oh, yeah.
SMK: Just awed and excited about it, and I came out, just bleary-eyed with what I had seen in there. It was mesmerizing, and there was this…at that time, I’m not sure they still have it because I’ve returned and it wasn’t there, but there was this wall of women’s names, 999 of them, and I think I read every one of them. And there was Sarah and Angelina Grimké, these two women who were the first abolition agents in America, and they were from Charleston, and I was living there at the time. And I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about them. And the more I learned about them, the more excited I became by them. They were brave, they were brave women, and they fought…
BB: Like raw courage, life-threatening brave.
SMK: Yeah, definitely. And I just wanted to tell the story, so that’s…but I have to say too, I knew that if I told the story of Sarah Grimké, I would have to also tell the story of an enslaved woman and not really have to, but want to. That was a little daunting because I was writing in the first-person voice of an enslaved woman, and so I had to do a lot of research.
BB: Happy Book Pub Day, which The Book of Longing just came out. I’m just going to read the back of this book out loud, and then I’m going to try to catch my breath.
BB: “I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth. All my life, longings lived inside me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night. That my husband bent his heart to mine on our thin straw mat and listened was the kindness I most loved in him. What he heard was my life begging to be born.” You have written a book about Ana, the wife of Jesus. We’re both just looking at each other. We’re on Zoom right now, we’re both just looking at each other, neither one of us is saying anything. She’s shaking her head and I’m shaking my head. [laughter] Walk me into this.
SMK: Yeah, okay. It took my breath when I wrote it, frankly, I’ll be honest. I didn’t write this book lightly; I’ll tell you that. I wrote the first lines that you just read, and I wanted her to walk on this literary platform that was this page and announce herself, and this is really a literary announcement: “Here I am. This is who I am,” right off the bat. And I wrote that and then I sat back and I looked at it, and what came to me was the line I said earlier, I thought, “Yeah, I went around telling people, you should always do at least one thing in your life that takes your breath and I told them I’d already done it, but no, I’m doing it right now, and it’s scaring the you-know-what out of me.” And so, I felt really vulnerable.
SMK: So, this book wasn’t without some trepidation, and yet at the same time, this is the book I longed to write, the book I feel like I was put here to write. It was so compelling for me and my soul demanded it, and I had this thing where I know when I’m being asked to write something, because my heart is talking to me; my soul is talking to me. I try to listen, and I believe that longings are one of the most eloquent ways the soul speaks to us.
BB: Wait, okay, you have to say it again, longings are…
SMK: Well, I’ll say it like this, “One of the most eloquent ways the soul speaks to us is through longing.” And in the book, there’s a character named Yaltha who says, “Return to your longings and they will teach you everything.” I longed to write this book, and so I did. That is not to say, I didn’t have to scrape up the courage to do it all the time. I’m just notorious about putting little signs and propping them on my desk, and I even had a bunch of them stenciled on the wall to my study, up the stairwell wall.
BB: What did the signs say?
SMK: Yeah, one of them said, “Writing is an act of courage.” That’s what it is, it all boils down to that. And I would read these every day, walking up to my study and try to embody that the best I could.
BB: I’m so mesmerized when you’re talking, I’m forgetting to check my notes and go to the next question because I don’t want to take my eyes off you and I don’t want to release my ears from your words, there are many things about this book. First of all, I’m going to get to the question about the research behind this book, I have to assume that there was a…I can’t even, as a writer, I don’t even understand the amount of research that went in this, and I’m a researcher. But let me talk about this first. Ana longs for the freedom to bring forth what she calls “the largeness in herself”. Talk to me about… I’m not going to be as eloquent as your character is, in terms of talking about longings, but I’m going to tell you where there’s some heartbreak in the book for me.
BB: You were the first person that convinced me that I could love God and challenge the rules of the church I was brought up in, that made me feel small and unseen and unheard. Like you really were, I have to say honestly, and I’m a very deeply spiritual person still. But you were the first person that I believed when I read, that calling the man-made, and I say that with intention, the man-made rules of the church into question, did not mean I loved God less. And so, when Ana talks about the largeness in herself, tell me about that because I grew up believing my Christian faith worked as long as I was committed to my smallness.
SMK: Yeah, we do get that message. Now, I believe, I didn’t always know this, but I believe it now, that every person has their own particular genius, that is their largeness, that it’s unique to them, it’s not that we’re special, it’s that we’re unique, and we all have this, I call it the particular genius, and bringing it forth is a life’s work. You could talk about this in so many ways, different language, like we are here to create our soul, or we’re artists creating our souls, people speak of it in a lot of ways. But I think of it as this inner part of us that we bring forth, and I think we fear it. And this is what Ana says in her prayer, she says, “Bless the largeness in me, even when I fear it.” It’s frightening to think of having this part of ourselves, this magnitude, this passion in ourselves. We’re told to be humble and meek and mild. And this is why I love the black Virgin Mary so much, as they call her in Europe, the Black Virgin. I’m not real fond of the virgin part, but I do like the Black Madonna, and she is fierce, and she does not have the dipped chin and the humble face and the lowered eyes, she looks you straight in the eye, she places her fist on her knees, and she says, “Here I am, here’s my largeness.” I think women need a little more of that.
SMK: Now, it’s not to say that we’re being arrogant or thinking too highly of ourselves, I think we contain that in the right way because it’s I think God given what is in us, and we’re here to create that. Someone asked me one time, “What does the soul do?” And I thought, “How in the world do I know?” But what came to me, and I just blurted it out was, “The soul loves and the soul creates.” And one of the first things the soul learns to do is to love life and to love our own self and our own life and everything around us, but to create, not just tangible things outside of ourselves but within ourselves, that is to work with our largeness. And Ana does that through the whole story, she is trying desperately, longing desperately to bring forth her largeness as a gift to the world, really.
BB: Tell me about the research behind this book?
SMK: Oh, my lord.
BB: How many years? It had to have been years.
SMK: Well, I started… Before I started writing a word, I researched 14 months. And that was, I’d go into school every day for about eight hours.
BB: I bet.
SMK: It was a lot. And there were days I thought, “What have I gotten into?” But mostly, I really loved the research. In fact, got almost where I couldn’t stop.
BB: Oh, yeah, I know that.
SMK: Yeah. I had to have someone, my daughter, tell me. She did an intervention and told me I had to stop studying the aqueducts, the Roman aqueducts and Galilee and get on with it.
SMK: It was getting bad. Mostly what I had to research or, I’ll say, spend the most time on, was the scholarship of the historical Jesus. That was, oh, so compelling and amazing to study that. Brené, what I was interested in doing as a novelist was talking about Jesus’ human side.
SMK: I wanted to portray him as a man, a human being and let us see what is possible. I just read, during my endless researching, I read the work of Marcus Borg.
BB: Oh, my god!
SMK: He’s amazing. Well, he was.
BB: Steve and I call ourselves Borg-again Christians.
SMK: Well, I am. Count me in.
SMK: And I came across something as I was trying to grapple with the question, how does a person write the character of Jesus? I’m putting words in his mouth and I’m doing all this. It really kinda does take your breath or, my own breath. And I came across something Marcus Borg wrote. And he said, “There is the pre-Easter Jesus and there is the post-Easter Jesus.” And I thought that was absolutely fascinating. And by that he meant that the human Jesus, the one that was born around 4 BCE and lived and died somewhere around 30 CE, was a real human being, and an extraordinary one. And we have somehow lost touch with that because it has been overshadowed by how much emphasis we have put on his divinity.
SMK: And the Church doctrine basically is that he’s fully human and he’s fully divine, but I think most of us have just seen him as divine. And Marcus Borg’s point really was that, by losing touch with the humanity of Jesus, we have lost the possibilities of what humans are really capable of. And I just thought, “That is it. That’s how I want to write pre-Easter Jesus.” The post-Easter Jesus is this divine reality that he later became through his followers. So, telling the human side of Jesus in those lost years, they call them the unknown years of Jesus, was really thrilling.
BB: Have you had tough feedback from people who question whether you should be writing this or not?
SMK: Well, I’m sure there will be.
BB: Yeah. It’s new.
SMK: Yeah. I mean…let’s give them time. [laughter] It hasn’t really happened that much yet, although I have gotten a few comments through social media. I know one woman explained to me that she was a Catholic and a good Catholic, and she said, “I think you must go to your nearest Catholic Church, wherever it might be. You must go kneel before the blessed sacrament and you must ask God’s forgiveness three times, and then you must write a retraction.” [laughter] Oh, my. Okay. So, she was very specific in what I needed to do about it. But, yes. There will probably be some controversy about it, but I’m used to rocking boats a little bit. I went around the controversy block with The Dance of the Dissident Daughter – oh, boy – when I was not as able or ready to take it on as I am now. So, you learn.
BB: Yeah. And you know what, maybe that’s an inherent part of taking your own breath away.
BB: Speaking your heart. The only two words that I have for you, really, are thank you. Thank you for The Longing, but also thank you for your courage. Thank you for giving me, personally, permission to be a woman of faith but also to be in my largeness and to challenge ideas that I just felt like were unholy based on their merit. What a gift you’ve given us in this book and in all your books.
SMK: Oh, that’s so gracious, so generous, Brené. Thank you for that. I just mostly want to tell a story that sweeps people up, but takes them where they need to go in their lives. And Ana follows her longings. That’s what she does with the help of this aunt, Yaltha, who is her lifeline and her cohort, and she encourages her audacity, I guess we’ll say.
BB: God, we need aunts like that, don’t we?
SMK: Oh, man, do we ever. I wish I had an Aunt Yaltha, and we all need one. I discovered my Aunt Yalthas later in life as my girlfriends.
BB: Me too.
SMK: I have Terry, Tricia and Carly, and they are my Aunt Yalthas. And they bless the largeness in me, and we bless the largeness in one another. And we say, “Yeah, go for it.” We try to make each other do audacious things and believe in our largeness. And I think that’s God given, that largeness and so what should be blessed, you know?
BB: Oh, yes. It’s the holiest part of us, don’t you think?
SMK: I do think it is holy and I feel like, not only do we fear it, we don’t even believe in it.
SMK: So, we have to come to believe that there is so much more in us than we can even imagine, and we all have some passion to bring forward.
BB: So Ana, our protagonist in your new book, The Book of Longings, tell me her prayer one more time and then we’re going to do a rapid 10 questions.
SMK: Well, there are several lines, but I’ll give you two of them. I’ll just say quickly, she wrote this prayer in an incantation bowl, and that becomes a central icon in the story, and what she writes in her bowl is, “Bless the largeness in me, even when I fear it. When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: She was a voice.”
BB: Oh, God. Amen. Can I just say amen to that?
SMK: Yeah, she wanted to be a voice in the world, and I think women’s voices, women’s stories are so important right now, and that’s why this story feels relevant to me. I think there’s just a whole lot of Ana in a whole lot of women.
BB: Oh, yeah. Okay, are you ready for our quick 10? Our rapid fire?
SMK: Let’s go.
BB: Okay, number one. Fill in the blank for me. Vulnerability is…
SMK: Taking off the armor and being who you are.
BB: Number two, you, Sue, are called to be very brave, but your fear is real, and you can feel it right in your throat. What’s the very first thing you do?
SMK: Take a deep breath, plant my feet, and say it anyway.
BB: Number three, something that people often get wrong about you.
SMK: That I’m not funny. I’m really funny. [laughter]
BB: Yeah. Yeah, you have to because you write funny too, I mean like you don’t write funny, but you write humor so well, okay.
SMK: Yeah, people think I’m very deep and spiritual, but I’m really funny.
BB: Okay, we could get in a whole podcast about that, how people think deep and contemplative and spiritual and funny are mutually exclusive. When I think funny is a prerequisite for contemplative and spiritual. Okay, number four, the last TV show that you binged and loved.
SMK: Killing Eve.
BB: So good. Okay, five. Favorite movie.
SMK: Oh, wow. That’s not too rapid. Let’s see, I love Sliding Doors by Gwyneth Paltrow.
BB: Gwyneth Paltrow.
SMK: And I love Shirley Valentine.
BB: Oh, okay, if you’re listening right now and you’ve never seen Shirley Valentine, I have to tell you, I own it, in everything from VCR to DVD. Walls. Oh, you have to get Shirley Valentine, listen to her conversations with the wall.
SMK: I love it so much too.
BB: My favorite. Okay, a concert that you’ll never forget.
SMK: James Taylor.
BB: Favorite meal.
BB: What’s on your nightstand?
SMK: Untamed, for the second time around.
BB: So good.
SMK: Serene Jones’ book… Oh, what’s it called? Something grace. Okay, I blew that one.
BB: But that’s okay, we got the author. Okay, a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you true joy.
SMK: Sitting in my little circle outside in my backyard with my dog Barney and my husband Sandy in our rocking chairs listening to the creek. Heaven.
BB: Heaven. Last one, tell me one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now.
SMK: Talking to a friend. Expressing what is inside of me and being able to voice it and having it heard. Thank you.
BB: Oh, my God. Thank you, Sue Monk Kidd. Light bearer, heart unraveler, midlife tour guide. Yes, thank you.
SMK: Well, for all you’ve done through your work for me, I thank you too.
BB: Okay, y’all, it’s not just every now and then you have a conversation that sweeps you away. This swept me away, and I got to see her on Zoom, and sometimes we just looked at each other and smiled and we didn’t say anything, and we didn’t have to, and it was incredible. And now, we’re going to continue this podcast on longing and belonging and faith with my friend Jen Hatmaker. If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen pictures of me and Jen at UT football games. We are friends, IRL, in real life. And again, as I said in the intro, she’s someone who put into practice what it means to put everything on the line for your faith when people from your faith home threaten you with expulsion. And she is a mighty, fierce, wonderful woman.
BB: Let me tell you a little bit about her. She’s the author of 12 books, including The New York Times best seller Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life; For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Jen is also the creator and happy host of the award-winning For the Love! Podcast with Jen Hatmaker. She is the curator of the Jen Hatmaker Book Club and a sought-after speaker. She tours the country all the time, sometimes we’re lucky enough to end up in the same places. She and her husband, Brandon, founded the Legacy Collective and also starred in the popular series, “My Big Family Renovation” and “Your Big Family Renovation” on HGTV. Jen is a mom to five, a zealous resident of Austin, Texas, where she and her family are helping keep Austin weird and a fellow Longhorn supporter. Let’s lean into a conversation with Jen around her new book, which is just incredible, which is called Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You. Jen Hatmaker.
BB: Jen Hatmaker.
Jen Hatmaker: Hi.
BB: I see you in your Texas Forever T-shirt.
JH: It’s so true. I’m just trying to remember that I’m a human person, and that one day I will walk back out of this house and I will see another human person and…oh man. You are, on the other hand, have a real lady’s shirt on.
BB: I do.
JH: It has a little puffy sleeve, and it’s got flowers on it. I am really impressed what I’m looking at right now. I am phoning it in Brené, real hard. Like my shirt feels a little itchy right now. Do you know what I mean?
BB: Yeah. I have on a real lady’s shirt over a real lady bra that I’ve had on for the first time in five days, so…
JH: I have to salute you.
BB: I had to do it, because I don’t know what happened yesterday, which was… What was the date yesterday? What month are we in?
JH: I know. Yesterday was the 22nd.
JH: April. [laughter]
BB: April, okay. That was a hard day for me, and I don’t know what happened. I am like, “Am I going to stay married? Am I going to…What is happening here? I am going crazy.” So I was really looking forward to just seeing your face today and talking about Fierce, Free and Full of Fire, your new book.
JH: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. I had that day, by the way, last Friday, where I thought, “Are we going to stay married? Am I going to continue to parent these kids?” Because I could get rid of one and still have four. That’s still a lot. And so, I…
BB: That’s a crew.
JH: Yeah. We’ve got some wiggle room in here, is what I’m saying.
JH: So, I hear you, and I appreciate you always being so honest about that because anybody who’s telling the truth right now is saying that we are all having some real days where we are just slogging through, and I had that too. We just had to have a real Come to Jesus all weekend and be like, “We’ve gotta figure out how to pull out of this.” But same over here.
BB: I’m with you. Okay. There are so many things I want to talk to you about. To set up this episode for our Unlocking Us community, what I explained is that I wanted to do you and Sue Monk Kidd together, because as a person of faith, and for me, person of faith is synonymous with a person of struggle. I just set this whole thing up by saying, “Sue Monk Kidd taught me that I could love God and question the man-made parts of the church.” And by man-made, I specifically mean man-made parts of the church. And that you have inspired me to stay in my fire and to stay fierce in those challenges despite massive consequences. You have.
JH: Thank you.
BB: So I want to talk about Fierce, Free and Full of Fire, what you learned, what you’re putting into practice, but I don’t want to bullshit people, because I also want to talk about the price. It’s higher not to do it, but let’s talk about the price too.
JH: All true. And it doesn’t serve us well at all to gloss that part over or to pretend like that’s not real, or that it doesn’t cause actual pain, or even real loss. That would not be a fair discussion here. And so Fierce is kind of the culmination of what I lived and learned and really earned.
BB: Did you say earned?
JH: Yeah, yeah.
BB: Okay, wait, I just want to stop right there. Lived, learned and fully earned.
JH: Yeah, right. I think the best stuff is earned. It’s the stuff that we face head-on even when it’s scary and terrifying and hard, and even guaranteed to cause some suffering for us. Where we know automatically there’s loss built into this, or I can’t control the outcome of this, and still it is the right thing to do. It is the right path to take. That’s earned freedom. That’s what I feel like this is. I love that you’re setting up this episode the way that you are in this faith packaging. I came up through just a very conventional, traditional, organized religion space. That’s the only world view I knew. I didn’t have another perspective; I didn’t have any competing ideas. I didn’t even know to question that until I was older. And so, I realized that I got to a point in my adult life where a whole truckload of conventions that I had been handed, which I just received by the way, unquestioned.
JH: I was a very type A rule-follower type. And so, my idea of ambition was to be the best good girl there was. I would follow all the rules the best. I would hit all the marks the best. I would be the most compliant, the most obedient, the most certain and sure of everything that I knew, which was also high currency in that community, and I was. I was really good at that. I was a darling, and I built a huge career there, by the way. And so, I built this entire world and then started noticing as I got older, saw more, heard more, listened more, learned more, experienced more, my world view expanded, the people in my community began teaching me things. I started paying attention. I’m like, “Oh, no. Oh, gosh. Oh, some of this doesn’t match what I believe. Some of this I don’t think is true. Some of this is built on systems of injustice and white supremacy and misogyny and patriarchy, and homophobia, and now what am I going to do, because I’m like a poster girl over there, right?
BB: Let me ask you this. I want to slow us down. What did that physically feel like and emotionally feel like for you as…Okay, if you all could see Jen right now, she is…Every therapist will know that she’s in full-on face rub. She’s wiped the eyebrows off her face right now. I want to know what the inconsistency felt like for you emotionally and physically.
JH: Thank you for asking that question. It’s a good one. I was so assured from such a young age, and not even just subtly, overtly assured, that I could not trust myself. That something was bad about me. My heart was bad, deceitful and wicked. My mind was bad, ambition was bad, 100% questioning a structure or an authority was very bad, completely frowned upon. So that something inside of me was just off and I just thought, “Golly, I guess I’m just going to have to just do better to earn approval somehow.” And so, it never occurred to me that I could trust anything about myself. My instinct, my own good eyes and ears paying attention to systems and rhythms that were breaking people’s hearts. I couldn’t trust my gut. I couldn’t trust what felt true.
JH: And so, when those things started to rub for me, when I started to realize that I was one Jen in this room, this big public room that everybody can see. And I knew about that room and I knew the language of that room, but I was a different Jen over here in this little private room, that was the only safe room I had. It was very small. Nobody can see it; nobody knew that I was visiting it. But when I started to realize that those two things were disintegrating, I was terrified, I felt physically sick, I stopped sleeping.
JH: I defaulted to the mechanism, which is the reason this is making me feel so…with so much turmoil, is because something’s wrong with me, I’m not allowed, I’m thinking the wrong thoughts again. Here I am, questioning some things and it’s making me feel bad, but my body was trying to tell me that I had permission to trust myself, that I had permission to trust what was true and good and right, and when something I was handed, and I was told this is true and good and right, but what I see at the other end of this is pain and suffering and loss and sorrow and exclusion, it felt terrifying to question. I didn’t know that I could, I didn’t know other people had. I was still in the private room.
JH: You know? I was in the private room, I didn’t know. I didn’t know, I didn’t know I was allowed.
BB: But what a system where it tells you all the rules and then tells you, if you start to question them or something feels off and you feel sick, it’s because you’re questioning them? I mean, that is a good system. That’s a winner system, that’s like a winner football playbook right there.
JH: I mean, it’s just a built-in mechanism right there to assure you that you are off the path. And it works. It’s very, very effective because here’s the deal, Brené, we’re talking about this in a faith context, but I bet a lot of women can understand this because we have these subgroups, these subcultures that we are a part of, and they all have their own set of rules. They all have this set of expectations and we know what they are. I knew what they were, and in my world, and I don’t think it’s just mine, I think this is in a lot of spaces, actually. The currency was belonging. And so I knew…
BB: For sure.
JH: When I hit my marks, when I give the room what it wants, I get to belong. That’s my prize, that behavior will be rewarded. But these types of behaviors, the ones that I had over in my little private room, the questions that I was asking, the systems I was pushing on, the doctrines I was re-examining, if I bring any of those behaviors from in the private room to the big public room, belonging will be the first thing that gets revoked. That’s the punishment.
JH: And I knew it.
BB: Yeah. Now you’re into neurobiology too, because now you’re into, the need to belong is hardwired in us.
JH: Yeah. That’s right.
BB: So, you’re in your room, you’re physically sick, you’re not sleeping, you know something’s wrong. Tell me about the cascade of decisions you have to make and how that plays out.
JH: Here is the thing. Women will just never, ever thrive. We will not flourish, if the cost of belonging is our silence. Like we can keep it up for a while, you know, for a while, and I did. I patch-worked the thing together.
BB: Me too.
JH: It was all starting to leak out, because it does, it was leaking out and it would cause a lot of turbulence. In my community, it’d be like, “Nope, those are not things we say. Those are not people we align with, these are not questions we ask”, and it would be so swift and so punitive, which I knew. So then, I would a spend two or three weeks just being unimpeachable. Do you know what I mean? I will just be absolutely adorable. I will be charming. I will say something that cannot be disagreed with, I will hold the thing together somehow and kind of repair it. So I had all these little stabs in the fabric that I knew just ultimately would not hold because I couldn’t handle it. So I got to the point where I said, “Okay, I see now. Jen, you are either going to get to hang on to your career as you have built it and where you’ve built it, as you know it, or you are going to get to hang on to your integrity. But you do not get both, these are incompatible. So you pick.” And, I picked my integrity, and I decided that the cost of my silence was too high. The cost of my integrity was too high.
JH: I couldn’t pay it. I couldn’t pay it for another day, so I just said, “If the whole thing burns, if not one bit of it ever gets rebuilt”, and I didn’t know if it would, I had no idea. I didn’t know if I would rebuild, I didn’t know where I would go, I didn’t know who would have me, I didn’t know what other kind of community I would land in. I didn’t even know if that was a thing. But I just said, even if it isn’t, like even if it isn’t, there is a comfort in being true, it is its own reward. Integrity is its own reward, and it was, and it held. It held me tight, it held me fast. Long before anything recovered.
BB: Tell me about the decision, you made a real decision. This was not a theoretical exercise. You made a decision, huge financial consequences, huge career consequences. Tell me what the decision was. Tell me what you decided and how things fell apart.
JH: Right, okay, so there’s a big umbrella under the faith structure that I was in, and it was very much…it was founded upon and dependent upon a lot of systems of oppression, not the least of which is patriarchy. That’s its whole skeleton. And racism, there was a lot in there. And so, I started to notice that my allyship with people of color was creating a ton of turmoil. Just the white fragility inside that conversation was untenable, that was the big tear. So things were starting to kind of unravel. But for me, apparently ultimately the straw that breaks the camel’s back in that particular system is unequivocal allyship and support and affirmation for the LGBTQ community. And so that is the thing. That’s the one. It can sustain, the system can sustain some of those smaller tears in the fabric, but not that one, at least not at the time. And so, when Brandon and I decided that we had to pick our integrity, we had to pick this community, we had to pick justice, so this was a justice issue for crying out loud. We knew the cost. And so that was a very public declaration, if you will, and then the cost was immediate. Immediate and fast, and punitive, it was just loss upon loss for a while, I just never thought, really thought about it.
BB: Yeah, it was like Dixie Chick reaction. It was like your books… It was like they pulled your books out of bookstores.
JH: Oh yeah. And out of print, not just out of bookstores, out of print, books that were selling and still being bought and read, out of print, and then it was just as we mentioned earlier, a complete excommunication of the community. The book, my belonging was immediately pulled. And so to your earlier point, that is real loss and real pain, it’s not fake, and it’s not easy. And so I hope in Fierce I have told the truth about that, that I did not make that seem like a simple step just to get past.
BB: No, you didn’t…
JH: But I’m telling you, did you ever get to meet my friend, Rachel Held Evans? Did you ever get to talk to her?
BB: Do you know all we ever did was exchange messages on Twitter.
JH: Yeah. I wish you could have known her Brené.
BB: I do too.
JH: She was so special, right when all that was going down and everything was just on absolute fire, just absolute fire, I couldn’t even see out of it, it was just nothing but smoke and flames, Rachel called me. And she had been a real mentor to me, she was one of the guides that I watched and went, “Oh my gosh, look what’s possible.” I didn’t know this was possible, I didn’t know this community existed, I didn’t know there was a possibility of spiritual curiosity that isn’t punished. I didn’t know it was real. And she was a real mentor to me. And I remember she called me right in the middle of just the heat and the flames, and she goes, “Jen, I’m going to tell you something that you’re not even going to know that you can believe right now, because everything is so scary and everything is so loud, and you’re just going to have to go through that, and that’s just too bad.” [chuckle]
JH: But she was like, “I promise you that when you emerge from this and what you have intact is your integrity and your goodness,” she said, “Really and truly, it will be enough. That will be enough for you. It will sustain you; it’ll hold you in this, and it’ll serve you later.” And she was so right. The only thing, if I had any regret at all, it’s that I wish I could go back and make every one of those decisions sooner. I wish that all those years that I carried tension where I was one way with this group and another way with this group, I wish I could go back and not have wasted a single unnecessary day, because this is the way to live. This is real freedom, and real beauty. Now I’m living in a world I didn’t even know about, and it is so beautiful and so good and true and genuine and safe. This is my highest vision for women, to live like this.
BB: Okay, let’s jump into one of the things I love about your new book, so let’s get inside baseball for a second.
BB: New book. How do you feel around new books coming out?
JH: Mostly disastrous.
BB: Me too. Me too.
JH: I just stop eating. So what I love about books are the words of them, that’s what I love. I love the words, and the truth inside those words, the possibility that those words hold for readers, what they can create in real life. That’s what I love, I love all of that. I could just eat that up with a spoon. The part where I have to tell everybody that and talk about that a lot and be like, “Here it is. It’s in a bookstore.” I just die, I just come undone and I fall apart. And my team pets me, they like pet my hair like…and I can tell they’re handling me. Do you know what I mean? Do you know when you’re being handled?
BB: Oh, yeah, I’m managed all the time.
JH: I can that I’m being handled.
BB: Yeah, I’m managed all the time.
JH: I’m being managed. Yeah.
BB: I’m managed mostly during book launches.
JH: Yes, me too. I’ll get a little email. Just a little email. “You’re doing great.” I’m like, “Oh, God. I’m being handled.” I know it, they see me, I’m fragile. It’s just I didn’t get…I’m not an author because I want to be a marketer, I’m an author because I want to serve my community. But anyway, whatever, it’s just this system that we’re inside of and I don’t know how to manage it, I don’t know how we’ll ever get out of it. Do you have a solution?
BB: No, I have no idea. I always…
BB: I’m the exact same way, I had to ask because I think it’s almost everything you said in the beginning, as long as the words live in the small little true room, I have to kind of trust everything else is going to work out.
JH: Yeah, that’s it.
BB: That’s it. Yeah, that’s all I can do. Okay, one of the things that you do in this book, is you give a lot of, and I love this about it, specific strategies that have worked for you.
BB: For me, right now, and not just because we’re Coronavirus-ed right now, but because, we’re desperate, like, we are grasping for tools right now. Yeah, we’re grasping for tools. So tell me about some of your favorite tools that you use to, what I would call and from a union perspective, probably integration. One Jen, the Jen that Brandon sees, the Jen that your kids see, the Jen that the world sees, one person. Tell me about some of your favorite integration tools.
JH: I did that in hindsight. Of course, you’re all in there. Thank you for giving us the tools that you give us all the time, they have served me immensely. So, I got here, I looked around and went, “Oh my gosh, I’m free. What, how did I get here? What just happened?” It was very, very fuzzy. And it was very, very crazy. And so, I looked back over, I’m going to say the last four or five years, and went, “Who helped me get here? Who have I been listening to? Who have my teachers and leaders been? What conversations have I been learning from? What tools and resources have I served?”
JH: And so, it was really hindsight where I went back and started picking up all the pieces from wherever they all were and put them in one place. So literally I shoved everything in this thing that I know. Now, I don’t know if that’s everything there is, I’m just one person, but it’s everything that got me here, and that includes an integration on how I think about, talk to and treat my body. So I had a variety of really incredible teachers and mentors who have led me well. And so, inside the book, it’s not a memoir, I hope that it is just a mighty resource in the hands of women, but it’s got things like…
BB: It is.
JH: Scripts and literally, sentences to put in a conversation that is hard. And these are things I just, kind of amassed, I’ve got a lot of stuff from you, all your work on true belonging is everything, it’s absolutely everything to me. It’s exactly what we’re talking about here. And so your work on true belonging served me so well. I remember the first time I read a couple of paragraphs where you defined true belonging and what that meant, and I just remember thinking, “That sounds like a dream, but, maybe an impossible dream,” because of the cost built into it, and yet here we are. And so, hopefully, I don’t just…it’s hard to just shine a light on areas of disintegration for women without offering a path, because then it would just be depressing. It’s just depressing.
BB: I agree. It is depressing.
JH: Because we all know, we know those places, we know the places that rub, we know the places we are lying, we know the places where we are pretending, and just keeping the temperature stable in the room, that somebody else wants us to keep. We know what they are, it’s not a mystery. So hopefully, I hope that women will finish it and close the last page and feel like, “I know what to do.” Like, “I know where to go, I know my next steps.”
BB: One of the things I love that you write about is, “Be okay with wobbly beginnings”.
BB: Tell me about that, I mean that…The way I think about this book is…this is the way I picture it, you all, that Jen, I wouldn’t say walked, that’s probably too graceful. Jen crawled down a path for several years, some of it covered in broken glass, got to the end of the path, found freedom, her fierceness from learning that she earned, walked back to the beginning of the path and then strung twinkle lights down the path for us to follow.
JH: What a great analogy, yeah.
BB: Yeah, went back and said, “Okay, I’ve crawled down this path, it has led me do somewhere solid and real. Now, let me go back and illuminate some of the more treacherous parts of the path.”
BB: Is that a fair description?
JH: I love that, actually. And I like that you mentioned the wobbly beginning part because, it’s really tempting sometimes to look at women that we respect or that we admire that are leading us well and see them closer to the end, and just feel like that is so unreachable. It’s just so impossible. But the truth is that, that’s just not true. Everybody had to get there, it’s just that some people started sooner, some people came from a sub-group that was just more charitable, thus their journey was received with kinder arms. And so, there are so many factors built into that, but it is wobbly, those first few steps are shaky, and especially if we’re flexing new muscles we’ve never flexed. If all we’ve ever done is figure out how to “keep the peace”, I’m putting that in quotation marks, “keep the peace” for everybody else, and then in doing so, rob our own selves of peace. Then when we finally decide that we have the right to our own ideas and convictions and desires and wants and needs and boundaries, those muscles are…they’re going to take some working. It’s going to take some working until they’re solidly under you.
JH: And so, that’s okay. I don’t think we ever disparage those first few steps, those are the bravest steps. Look, sometimes I just, I want to go back to Jen of five years ago, the one who was scared as shit and staring down what was inevitably, going to be a lot of loss, but still on the other side of it. Still very much succeeding, very much beloved, very, very centered and privileged and favored in my group. I want to go back to the Jen that decided to let it all burn for the sake of honor and integrity and hug her. I want to be like, “Oh, those steps were so wobbly, you were just literally falling on your face. But you did it. You did it.” And so, I want to say that to women too, those very first few steps down the path, you’re taking them, you’re on it, you’ve laced up your shoes. That means something. It means something.
BB: It means something…
JH: It means something, one step at a time may be slow, but it will get you somewhere. And so, I honor it, I honor the movement, I honor every single step that you earn.
BB: One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot. I’ve only been doing the podcast for maybe two or three weeks, four weeks maybe, I don’t even know. How long are we in? Four weeks. And talking to you, talking to Alicia Keys, Tarana Burke, Glennon. Talk to Sue Monk Kidd… One of the things that has really struck me, and I think it struck me probably kind of pierced my heart a little bit when reading your book, that the new book Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, is when women say, “I can’t afford to pay the price. I can’t afford to pay the price of if I stop proving, stop perfecting, stop pleasing, I can’t afford to pay the price, as if there’s not a price being paid now.”
JH: Every lie is costing somebody something. The question is…
BB: Oh my God, say that again.
JH: Every single lie we are telling or protecting, maybe it’s just in our silence that we’re protecting a lie, but it is costing somebody something. So the question is, who is benefiting from this lie and who’s paying the price? Because it’s never neutral. It is never neutral. There is no status quo that values justice and truth. They are counting on our submission and our silence and our complicity, so that that power differential stays in play. If we are waiting on systems to overturn themselves, we’re just going to go to the grave in an unjust world. So this work is ours to do and those lies cost us something. They cost you. They cost…they cost a woman her heart and soul. They cost her her own agency over her own damn life, that cost is too high. That price is too high. You don’t have this…
BB: I’m with you, too high.
JH: It’s just high.
BB: Too high.
JH: Here’s how this gets clear for me, Brené, and you will understand this. I’ve breathed this air my whole life, and so it is so much work for me to undo this as a grown-up. I have to just pull and unravel and just tear it, all the fabric of all this. It’s hard to unlearn it and then relearn.
JH: So that makes it sometimes hard for us to believe that we are worthy of this, that we are worthy of our own truth, we are worthy of our own life, we are worthy of our own authority…
BB: The freedom.
JH: And possibility and freedom. But here’s where this gets clear for me. Because I’m telling you, even as I’m talking to you, right this minute, I have a mean little voice right here in my head being like, “But do you?” I do. That voice is so mean, and I’ve had it for so long. But when I think about my daughters, when I think about them…
BB: Oh God, yeah.
JH: The clouds part. The clouds part, because then I go, “Wait, aren’t they worthy of ownership? Aren’t they worthy of freedom? Aren’t they worthy to be inside relationships and systems and structures and faith communities that are true and real and good? 100%. Would I ever want them to shape-shift just to keep a power differential intact?
BB: Comfortable. Yeah.
JH: Perish the thought. I can’t even stand it. I cannot even stand it. And so this is work I think we do right now in our generation, and we pass it on to our daughters in strength. Hopefully, they will read this book that I just wrote in a few years and just not even get it, like, not even get it.
JH: Like, “What are you talking about??”
BB: Yeah, like, “It must have been bad back then.” Yeah.
JH: Yes, yes. I hope it is absolutely obsolete for the next generation.
BB: So here’s my other one thing I want to talk to you about before our fast 10. You write in this book that we don’t have to choose between home, parenting, and you know, what I guess Sue Monk Kidd would call our largeness, our individual genius and gift that we are here to find and explore. Are we really still having…we are still having that conversation, aren’t we?
JH: It’s maddening. I believe we’re on the downhill slope of that.
JH: That’s my best hope on my best day. The reason I think that is because of my daughter who’s 20. Because she’s like, “What, what are you even talking… what are you talking about?” It would never even occur to her to operate inside those sorts of structures. So I think we’re on the downhill slide here. Underneath it, if we have any internal work to do here, to expedite this process, I think it is simply…I wish that women would believe that they have the right to want. They have the right to want. They can want.
BB: Period. You can leave it right there.
JH: That’s it. They can want. They can want big. They can want something like in real hungry, blazing ways. They can want it with ferocity. That is beautiful and wonderful, and that sort of feminine wanting has deeply served the world. I mean, that has created so much human flourishing. And so, I hope women can learn to trust that. Oh no, you get that, you get to want something as wild as the day is long. And I think if we address that, if we say, “No, no, no, I get to do this, and I want to do this, and I’m going to do this.” And that is not a binary thing that I have to pick this or this, we’re going to finally put a period at the end of the sentence and be able to put it to bed.
BB: My daughter, who’s 20, our daughters are the same age.
BB: On her 16th birthday… Was it her 16th birthday? No, it was Mother’s Day when she was 16, wrote me a card that said, “Thank you for showing me that I can be ambitious and be a good mom.”
JH: Oh. Everything.
BB: Yeah. And she said, “I know you hate missing some games and I know you hate that, but I don’t want to ever have to choose. So thank you for that.” and I just… I still have the card. And it’s…
JH: Oh. That’s everything.
BB: It is everything, it’s…the thing I hope she does better than me is less guilt about it. Like I’m doing it, but I still feel…I’m still…I know I’m still hard and we both travel for a living, so that’s hard. You ready for my rapid 10?
JH: I sure am.
BB: Okay. Number one. Fill in the blank for me. Vulnerability is…
JH: Worth it.
BB: Two. You, Jen, are called to be brave but your fear is real, it’s right in your throat. What is the very first thing you do?
JH: I gather my girlfriends on my porch and force them to talk me into courage.
BB: Awesome. Something that people get wrong about you.
JH: Oh. That I am not tender. That I can handle anything, nothing hurts.
BB: Geez. I hate that one, just speaking personally. They think the same. Yeah, yeah. Hard. Last show you’ve binged and loved.
JH: Schitt’s Creek.
BB: Favorite movie.
JH: Notting Hill.
BB: A concert you’ll never forget.
BB: Favorite meal.
JH: Oh, this is so hard, it’s like asking me my favorite kid. It’s going to be…I’m going to have to say a whole culture. I’m going to have to say Thai food. I can’t pick it. I want the whole thing. I want the whole buffet.
BB: You got it. Yeah. What’s on your nightstand?
JH: I’m trying to decide right now if I can tell you the truth or lie, but I decided to tell you the truth. A wine glass with just a little bit of wine left in it, because that was last night, and the last book I just finished, which is The Nightingale.
BB: A snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you real joy.
JH: That’s a good one. Being in my kitchen with a knife in my hand, an onion on the counter, chopping away.
BB: Last one, one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now.
JH: Oh man, I’m so grateful for the goodness of people, it’s just coming out everywhere right now. I can’t even open my phone without seeing the most beautiful stories of connection and… look, can I tell you the quickest story?
BB: Yes, please.
JH: This is so short. It’s so short. But Fierce just came out on Tuesday, it’s a brand new baby, and it’s such a weird time to release a book, and I don’t recommend it. So everything that we built around it, it was cancelled and not possible, and everything’s virtual and remote, and that included release day. So my girlfriends, who live 50 yards this way, texted me on Tuesday, the day it released, about 4:00 o’clock and said, “Come outside, let’s take a walk. We want to celebrate you. We’ll take a socially distant walk. We just at least want to see your face and cheer on the book and say, ‘Yay, we see what you’ve done.’” And so me, no clue. Absolutely no clue. I’m like, “uh, you guys, it’s hot.” And they were like, “Okay, we’ll make it short.” I’m like, “Oh, you guys…Oh, I just have on flip-flops.” They’re like, Oh my God. It’ll just be a stroll. Come outside.” So I start coming outside and where the house is situated, I can’t see anything. I can’t see the road, I can’t…I have to almost be to the road before I see.
JH: And first of all, it’s weird that Brandon’s following me. I’m like, why is he following me? What a weirdo. And why is he filming me? That’s weird too. And I started getting out to the street and I can’t tell what’s happening, first thing is my ears… I hear all of these little bike bells, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.” I see my friends, and they’re dressed weird, they’re dressed up. And their bikes have all these streamers on them. I’m like, oh, well that’s cute, they did a cute little thing. And then I see somebody dressing a big dinosaur costume. And then I see my mom, like, why is my mom here? And then I see my sisters, why are my sisters here? And I get all the way out to the street and I look down, there are cars wrapped around the block, and it’s everybody who loves me, and they have signs and horns and confetti and banners, and they are screaming and they are honking, and they’re driving by me slowly, and they’re jumping out and putting gifts in a socially distanced bucket for me, and I just will never forget it as long as I lived.
JH: It was the most incredible moment. And I’m like…everything that matters will last. Our love for each other, our connection to each other, the way that we love and serve and share one another, all of that… None of that is in jeopardy right now, even now, even in this weird quarantine world, that stuff is finding a way to bubble up and rise up and still just absolutely fill our hearts with joy and love. And so that is giving me hope right now. People, people, they’re still good. They’re still out there.
BB: They’re still good. They’re still good.
JH: We’ll get to hug them soon.
BB: Jen Hatmaker, thank you so much and thank you for the good work in this book, we love it.
JH: Thanks for having me on.
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