On thing we’ve embraced as a culture (and that I have wholeheartedly embraced personally) the last few years is the beauty and the power of brokenness. Here’s a quick roll call of some artists of the broken that come to mind for me:
- Ann Voskamp, author of the wildly and perennially popular One Thousand Gifts, has more recently released a book called The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life
- One of my favorite (and one of the earliest) popular mommy bloggers, the Bloggess herself, Jenny Larson, has a new book out, Broken, in the Best Possible Way about living with depression and anxiety
- On my writing playlist, I have Kelly Clarkson’s Broken and Beautiful
I could go on and on and on. You know that, because I’m sure you can immediately think of someone, too. Pick one you’re familiar with, your favorite story about someone who is broken but/and okay in their brokenness. Think about the person who wrote it, what you admire about them, what is compelling about their story.
Is broken a word you would use to describe them if they hadn’t used it themselves? So many of these stories are about breaking a facade, showing what’s going on behind the scenes. “Because I’m famous/good at something, you may think I have it all together. I don’t.” If they came to you with their stories and didn’t take call it brokenness, would you say they’re broken? Or would you say, “Dang, that’s some messed up shit you went through.”
What IS broken, anyway? What does it mean? Something that is broken is fractured or damaged or no longer in working order. I think of these women, and I think, “Yeah, ok, fractured, damaged… they’re wounded. I suppose you could say that’s being fractured or damaged…” It’s the “no longer in working order” part that catches me. If you think about what they’ve been through… would you expect their bodies and brains to have responded any differently?
The next logical question is this: If admitting that they’ve had a natural (if difficult) response to horrible things in their lives means people are “broken,” what’s the fix? What does working “correctly” look like? Is more resilience to messed up shit really what we want for ourselves as a species?
Why is an acceptance of that messed up shit so deeply ingrained in us that we swallow this narrative of personal brokenness without so much as a hiccup?
Is it because we need to believe that the best we can do about the messed up shit is to get some therapy (if we can afford it) and set boundaries and hope we have the power to enforce them?
Ah, but life is just difficult, you say. Life is hard. Yes, yes it is. There are things that crush us and the reason they happen (if there is one) is lost to mysticism and philosophers. Accidents, earthquakes, hurricanes, deadly viruses. Death is universal, and it sucks.
If you’re old enough, you’ve probably experienced something that left you feeling broken. Fractured, damaged, no longer in working order. If you feel broken, was it one of those things? Or was it something less mysterious in purpose? A human being behaving according to the ways of power and not the ways of love?
What kinds of hurts more naturally fed into a stronger sense of your own purpose, of urgency to live life well in joy? Which hurts gutted your sense of yourself, left you reeling and unstable, sank into your flesh and stayed there festering?
It is true that we only have control over our own actions. I cannot make someone else want to be a good person. Yes, the way of the world is power and injustice…
Do I expect more of myself? Do you? What if there are more people expecting more of themselves than people who do not?
If it’s okay to acknowledge that we’ve been shredded by the machinery of this world that runs on the fuel of power and privilege… Maybe it’s time to be okay with talking about the machine itself, the one that fractures and damages with its working order. Maybe it’s time to do more than look for therapy and gratitude for healing. Maybe sharing our vulnerability and weakness isn’t an end goal but a starting point for something new. Maybe it’s time for something else to give.