Anne Lamott on Grief, Brokenness & Small Steps

Anne Lamott on Grief, Brokenness & Small Steps

November 10, 2014 by

The patron saint of brokenness, Anne Lamott, has a new book out today. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace is a collection of essays about grief. It’s the third in a trilogy of sorts, following Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers and Stitches: A Handbook of Meaning, Hope and Repair.

Brokenness is a theme we come back to a lot on this blog, probably because the church prefers to project perfection. Which is too bad, since our own failure is a primary tenant of our faith. It’s a theme we repeated just last week when Gary Molander talked about how inspiring it can be to embrace brokenness.

Anne Lamott is the flag-waving leader of brokenness, quick to own up to her own neurosis and, well, humanity. It goes back to Jesus literally stalking a drunken Lamott until she finally relented with an expression of profanity (one of my favorite conversion stories ever, which can be found in Traveling Mercies).

Love her or hate her, she’s not hiding her own sin. The church could learn a thing or two from that kind of honesty.

“Small is how blessings, healing, progress and increase occur.” -Anne Lamott

Embracing Humanity

So yeah, Lamott has a new book out. It’s about grief. She explains to Salon why we tend to downplay grief:

Grief is just so scary. Our grief and rage just terrify us. If we finally begin to cry all those suppressed tears, they will surely wash us away like the Mississippi River. That’s what our parents told us. We got sent to our rooms for having huge feelings. In my family, if you cried or got angry, you didn’t get dinner.

We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane. I think it is pretty universal, all this repression leading to violence and fundamentalism and self-loathing and addiction. All I know is that after 10 years of being sober, with huge support to express my pain and anger and shadow, the grief and tears didn’t wash me away. They gave me my life back! They cleansed me, baptized me, hydrated the earth at my feet. They brought me home, to me, to the truth of me.

There she goes again. Instead of pretending to be strong, embracing our broken humanity is what brings us to truth.

Remember that as your churches communicate. We’re not presenting a slick and polished facade. It’s OK to own to our own failings.

Small Steps

And from the title of her new book, it’s also worth remembering the small efforts that can make monumental differences (from Religion News Service):

Small is how blessings, healing, progress and increase occur. Not on the fantasy, magic wand realm of televangelists. In my experience, all you ever need is a little bit of this or that—a spritz of spiritual WD-40, five minutes of someone’s time—for there to be a significant shift in perception. Which is what most miracles look like.

Your communication efforts don’t need to be grand spectacle. It’s not the massive marketing campaign that makes all the difference, it’s the slow steady march of one tiny update at a time.

It’s true for miracles and it’s true for marketing.


Photo by Sam Lamott
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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