Courage, humility, and vulnerability

Courage, humility and vulnerability:

But first, God speed, Winnie Mandela. Life was not easy.

Mom and Dad knew Hugh Masekela in Botswana. He helped bring about the Botswana International School of Music. For a long time, we had the VHS of the 1987 Graceland concert, now it’s in DVD. The concert was held in Harare, Zimbabwe. Some of the South African musicians, Hugh Masekela included, long had been self-exiled or banned from South Africa.

Courage and Vulnerability

You know that awful dream when you haven’t finished a project, or you can’t find the room you’re supposed to be in, or you have to perform but nobody’s given you the script so you’re going to have to stand there and make something up–in your night clothes? Then there’s the one where you have to teach a class or take a test and everything under the sun goes wrong. Vulnerability dreams.

The dictionary says: Vulnerability is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. Geesh.

1. The internet hawks products against vulnerability in business:

“Detect & Remediate Vulnerabilities Before Attackers Exploit Them. Try Free Demo!” and “Vulnerability Assessment, Intrusion Detection, Threat Detection!”

2. In today’s social media world, do we really want to be vulnerable to data ‘gatherers’? Uh, no thank you, Mr. Zuckerberg.

3. Do we want to feel emotionally fluffy enough to be flattened when we walk into a classroom full of teenagers, or fly a fighter jet over enemy territory, or give a one hour talk on neuroscience to a paying audience that expects to be filled with knowledge about neuroscience? Of course not.

4. As in Jubilee’s Middle Ground video last week, do we really want to be vulnerable to physical attack? No, nobody does. (Ah, there’s the rub for pacifists who learn to make themselves vulnerable rather than kill another, God bless. Okay, we can’t cover all that in one post! Food for more meals, surely.)

5. But in every day life, with its friends, frenemies, children, parents, and colleagues, we can practice the courageous emotional vulnerability that Brené Brown espouses.

What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful, she says. Brené Brown is the author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks in the world. She is also the author of The Gifts of Imperfection, I Thought It Was Just MeBraving the Wilderness and other books. I’ve only just learned about her, so I look forward to discovering her words.

For Daring Greatly, she asked people what vulnerability feels like. Two answers I like best are:

“Where courage and fear meet.”

“You are halfway across a tightrope, and moving forward and going back are both just as scary.”

Photo by Aditya Wardhana on Unsplash

We run from emotional vulnerability because we fear being judged, losing control, or looking weak. But in Brene’s world, vulerability helps you deal with uncertainty and emotional risk. It kicks you in the keister to make that call to a grieving friend, even if you don’t know what to say. It allows you to empathize with children–such an essential emotional skill. It brings confidence and a gratitude for the ordinary in our humanity.

This clip of Brené Brown’s talk with Oprah shows that vulnerability can be strong and healing. Vulnerability is courageous. Oprah’s interpretation is worth a listen, too.

So, Brené says, You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability. Well, that’s not easy.

For a long time, I had some trouble with emotional vulnerability. Maybe it was always being the new girl and feeling that I should claim my territory. But I received the care and friendship of enough kids and adults to move me along. Now, if I feel the introversion and shyness in myself, I can just let them be, as long as I’m not hiding behind them. I like to listen to people (if they know how to stop at the end of their own paragraphs!) and I enjoy quiet conversation.

We all must learn to show up, without having to say the right thing, move the conversation where it must go, or be the fixer in the group. Showing up with humility and kindness is a pretty darn good habit to nurture.


Graceland DVD:

I welcome your comments: Please enjoy a few short stories on the Home page, as well.

{Thank you to my niece, Addie Liechty, for taking the picture above that is this blog’s featured image. Her blog is:}

Best wishes and have a good week.
















Greta Holt


  1. Diane Gottlieb on April 26, 2018 at 7:20 am

    Thank you for this post–for your thoughts, experiences, for the music clip, and for the clip of Brene Brown and Oprah. I loved when Oprah said this: “vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence.” That was really powerful. Taking the risk to be open and vulnerable takes courage and builds confidence. It gets easier with practice, and as you say, becomes “a pretty darn good habit to nurture.”

    • Greta Holt on April 26, 2018 at 8:48 am

      I’m really curious about vulnerability now: how it differs from being weak or too touchy-feely as in ‘we must all talk about our feelings!’ This thing about showing up without having to be the show seems key to growth. Thanks, Diane.

  2. Holly Dixon on April 26, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Love having your insights delivered to my inbox, Greta. So nice to be able to take time from such a busy go-go life and read your reflections about what truly MAKES a life. Appreciate your point of view — gives me a lot to think about in the small snatches of quiet moments.

    • Greta Holt on April 26, 2018 at 10:20 am

      What you do with small snatches of quiet moments and roaring hours of work and caring are evidence that courage exists. Thanks for reading, Holly. We miss you.

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