What Were You Made to Do…to Be? (Dr. Kelly Flanagan | UnTangled)
Given that this is the 3rd post I’ve done highlighting an article I’ve read on Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s blog UnTangled…I guess you can deduce that I like what he has to say. But this article, What Were You Made to Do, hit the bulls-eye of the Redeem Your Ground back story like no other. I’ll let you read it for yourself and then come back at the end to connect a few dots.
What were you made to do? The answer to that question has the power to alter the arc of history. For good.
The alarm sounds at 5am, and my heavy-gritty eyelids creak open. The kids still have two hours of slumber ahead of them, which means I have two hours alone with my thoughts and my keyboard and my craft. The prospect is thrilling.
Because there’s something else nestled right next to my gleeful anticipation. It doubts and it gnaws. It’s my fear of the blank page. It’s my fear of drying up. It’s my fear of not being enough.
When I sit in front of a blank document, it can feel like my worth is up for grabs. And that kind of fear makes me feel incredibly vulnerable—it’s way easier to feel prolific and invincible. In the past, the fear has driven me back under the covers. Fear and vulnerability like a padlock, trapping my words inside.
But now I know, my vulnerability isn’t the lock on my words—it’s actually the doorway into everything I want to write about.
The Violence of Invincibility
We live in an invulnerable world. Somewhere along the way, we decided vulnerability is weakness, and we’ve banished it from the public square.
Waiters aren’t allowed to confess mistakes for fear of a lawsuit. If a doctor admits doubt, they lose the confidence of everyone they serve. When was the last time a politician admitted they were wrong before they were caught in the act? Pillars of virtue cheat their way to the top rather than embracing limitation and weakness.
We’ve replaced the public square with a winner’s circle.
And our homes aren’t much different—we’ve banished vulnerability from our living rooms and bedrooms and hearts. Marital conflict escalates as spouses litigate their love with cross-examinations and Exhibits A to Z. Our children take their cues, and they compete with each other for worth and value. On playgrounds, tears get stifled and punches get thrown.
Our strength and invincibility are, quite simply, tearing the world apart. In the end, the winner’s circle stands empty, and so do our hearts.
Who will show us the way out of this morass?
The answer might surprise you, because the answer is you.
The Vulnerable Ones
Before sunrise, I’m a writer, but I’m a clinical psychologist when the sun comes up. And this is what my clients have taught me: we aren’t healed by the countless guises of invincibility—better arguments or improved technology or obscene wealth.
We are healed by vulnerability.
We are healed when we reveal our mess to another and put our real self on the line.
When we connect in our brokenness—not in spite of it—we discover what makes us messy is also what makes us beautiful. And we give everyone around us permission to be broken and beautiful, too. When we have the courage to embrace our weakness, we quit competing and we begin loving, we quit fighting and we start sacrificing. A world torn apart by invincibility can only be healed by vulnerability and weakness.
And art is one of the last bastions of vulnerability in this invincible-crumbling world.
Which makes you—the artist—the one we’re all waiting on.
“Wait,” you say, “Me? The artist? Me?”
And I say, “Yes, you the artist.” Because that’s the other thing my clients have taught me:
There’s an artist in all of us.
The Artist in You
When I began to let go of my protective false self, to listen to the voice of grace inside of me, and to settle into my true self, I became aware of a creative impulse within me. I wanted to write. I had no idea where it would lead, no plan, just a creative urge. And I allowed the impulse to lead me. I figured this was my own personal journey, and I enjoyed it.
But as a clinician, I’ve discovered something universal:
In each of us, there’s an artist waiting to be born.
When you ask anyone who has begun to release their shame and trust in their worthiness what they would do if they followed their heart, they say things like:
- Dust off my camera and be a photographer again.
- Set up a woodshop in my garage.
- Refurbish my ’65 Mustang.
- Start a business on Etsy.
- I’d create a curriculum.
- I’d create a community.
- Open a craft shop.
- I’d play my guitar.
- I’d garden.
- I’d sculpt.
- I’d write.
- I’d paint.
- I’d sing.
- I’d act.
- I’d leap.
When we quit investing our time and energy in our invulnerability—our protection and pretending and perfecting and performing—we can become the artists we already are.
As it turns out, we were created to create.
The question is: Do you believe in yourself enough to leap?
We Need You
- We need you to leap. We need the artist within you. We need people living from their true selves, people settling into who they are, and then vulnerably coloring the world with what they find there.
- We need the artist in you to face the demons.
- We need the creative within you to stare them down.
- We need anyone willing to bleed on the page or the canvas or the medium of their choice.
- We need that kind of vulnerability.
- We need to fill up the winner’s circle with creativity and art and beauty and all things redemptive, until there is no room left within it for ego and violence and invincibility.
The future of this splintered planet may depend upon it.
Question: First, have you been living from your creative center? Please fill up this comments section with links to the creative thing you’re doing, whether it be a blog or a book or a painting or a sculpture or a painting or whatever. I will try to find a way to compile them so that everyone can enjoy the awesome creativity of this UnTangled community! Second, if you did begin to live from your creative center, what would you create? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
(Thanks again, Dr. Kelly…for challenging us with your way with words…your creative center…and allowing me to share this post with my RYG friends.)
As I started out saying…this blog hit me and the Redeem Your Ground story between the eyes. Up until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t been living in my creative center…or put another way, I hadn’t been living out who in my heart of hearts I knew I had been created to be. Although I couldn’t articulate it initially, but…after a ton of soul-searching, gnashing of teeth (mine), prayer, and further consideration…I finally realized that I was uniquely gifted to see the potential in people and the potential of spaces.
I know…that sounds a bit out there…and it still does to me too. But bringing those giftings together with my passion for family, my love of the outdoors, and my knack for design…with Britt at my side, I took the leap of faith to launch Redeem Your Ground. Through my design efforts I hope to help families effectively extend the walls of their homes so that they can enjoy the outdoor spaces they’ve had all along. Through RYGblog, Britt and I hope to inspire and enable others to live more fully outside at home…connecting with their families, friends, neighbors, and nature.
It certainly hasn’t been easy…and we have a long way to go…but we know we’re right where we’re supposed to be…living in our creative center, as Dr. Kelly puts it. But we’ve found that as we’ve tried to bring life to someone else…by being who we’ve been created to be, life is brought to us as well.
So I’ll end with the same question that started this post…What were you created to do…to be? If you don’t know…at the very least, it’s worth starting the journey to figure that out.
(The comments section Dr. Kelly is referring to above is the comments section directly below his original blog…and I’d encourage you to go there and do as he’s challenged you to do. Or, feel free to leave those or similar comments below this blog…I’m sure what he wants more than anything is for you to start dreaming…to start creating…to start being the artist you were created to be…and your very first step may be simply making a comment. So please do.)
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Doug, thanks as always for such kind words about my writing and for sharing it here. Your story is exactly the kind of story I’m wanting to nudge people toward. Listen to that creative center and then take the courageous leap. I’m utterly convinced that if every person did what you did and followed the very unique calling written on their hearts, the world would be radically transformed. We’d flourish as a people. Thanks for doing your part in the cosmic dance!
Thanks Kelly! I appreciate your encouraging words…where are always nice to hear when you’re taking that “courageous leap”…because it can be a very scary place. And likewise to you my friend…you are obviously doing your very own cosmic boogie yourself! Take care, D.