“We are hardwired for connection, and connecting requires courage, vulnerability, and conversation… We don’t have to do life alone. We were never meant to.” —Brené Brown
Don’t listen to Unlocking Us if you are hoping for an hour of light entertainment or meaningless distraction. Listen if you are curious to grow in your faith, identity, and relationships. Host Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the past 20 years studying shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy. After a viral TED talk and five best-selling books, Unlocking Us is her first foray into the podcasting sphere. She embodies the vulnerability and courage she champions.
From Episode One, she honestly engages the listener, revealing her insecurities about starting a podcast. She compares her experience to the research, illustrating the connections of the practical and theoretical. Brené ensures the “Us” of the podcast title also includes herself rather than preaching to the broken listeners from an academic pedestal. We are invited to honor her vulnerability, see common connections between all humans and be self-compassionate.
Brené interviews courageous guests, particularly women who have pushed the boundaries set against them regarding their roles in society. Alicia Keys (Ep. 7) opens up about her journey to maintain her identity through the popular culture machine. Sue Monk Kidd (Ep. 10), reflects on moments in her life when she has chosen courage. (Monk Kidd writes her latest book from the perspective of the fictional wife of Jesus. She hopes to help Christians remember that Jesus was divine and human.) Jen Hatmaker (Ep. 10) unpacks her choice to support the LGBTQ+ community despite the predicted pain of being excommunicated from her church community. Brené digs down to the motivation of these women and finds out where they found their courage.
While the podcast content easily captures the listeners attention, there are a few distracting features. Each episode begins with a long commercial from Brené Brown. Sometimes the episode topic is not introduced until the five-minute mark. Also, conversations with guests are not edited, so the episodes can be almost 90 minutes long.
Overall, Unlocking Us is an excellent choice for Christians looking to grow in their faith and identity as well as understand others better. Along with learning about oneself, Brené shapes the story of each guest to be an inspiring resource for the listener. Vulnerability is hard. Vulnerability is meaningful. And vulnerability unlocks a deeper understanding of who God created us to be and how he created us to live. (Cadence13)