In this episode of the Living Richly Podcast, Eric and Rob interview award-winning author, coach and psychologist Dr. Kelly Flanagan. Together they explore the transformative journey of overcoming shame and embracing self-compassion. You’ll discover practical strategies and insights to break free from the shackles of shame and unleash your true worth.
Show Notes for Episode 26
Kelly is the author of “Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life” and “The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell.” You can find out more about him on his website.
You can also read his latest book “The Inner Gathering” on Substack.
Finally, for all the latest news, you can follow Kelly on Instagram.
Key Concepts from Episode 26 – Overcoming Shame
Dr. Kelly Flanagan, author, speaker, and clinical psychologist, has been on a journey to understand the power of grace for several years. A series of personal and professional challenges prompted him to start practicing what he preached. In his own words, he settled into himself. Here are some of the key lessons he learned.
Listen for the voice of grace.
During a difficult season of his life, Kelly discovered the voice of grace. He realized he had been listening to the voice of shame up until that point. He was so moved by the experience that he wrote a book called “Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life”.
In the book, Flanagan introduces a model of grace that has impacted him and many others. He believes that listening for the voice of grace is crucial to find true peace and happiness.
Embrace your worthiness.
Kelly introduces his concept of the three basic human needs: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. He argues that these needs must be met in the following sequence: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. The message is simple yet profound. Once you embrace your worthiness, you can experience a real sense of belonging, and find your true purpose in life.
We all struggle with our worthiness. We become so focused on chasing validation that we forget to trust our worth. This can lead to a very hollow life.
The key to unlocking our worthiness is radical self-acceptance. We can accept ourselves for who we are. We can trust our worthiness and feel comfortable in our own skin. We become alive, at peace, and able to follow our passions.
Trusting our worthiness is the key to unlocking our true potential and living our richest life.
Be true to yourself.
In today’s world, it can be quite challenging to live your life. The pressure to live up to other people’s standards and expectations can be overwhelming. Remaining true to our values and our authentic selves is critical, however. Kelly had to learn to embrace his worth and practice self-care, even when it was difficult. He had to recognize his inherent value and trust in his potential.
Flanagan contends that self-care is the least selfish thing you can do. It’s not self-centred or self-indulgent. It’s about taking the time to nurture yourself and prioritize your needs. It’s about putting your oxygen mask first. When your tank is full, you have more to give in every role and every relationship.
Love yourself unconditionally.
When we love ourselves unconditionally, we let go of shame. We accept ourselves as we are, flaws and all. We forgive ourselves for our mistakes and shortcomings. We move forward with compassion and understanding. We learn to be gentle with ourselves and recognize our worthiness. We take risks and become more vulnerable, knowing that we are supported and loved.
When we learn to love ourselves, we create a more authentic life. We craft more meaningful relationships and experiences that bring us joy and fulfillment. We learn and grow, knowing that we’re capable of achieving our goals. We find our purpose and pursue our passions.
Loving ourselves unconditionally requires the courage to face our fears and insecurities. Embracing our worthiness allows us to create a meaningful life filled with love, joy, and abundance.
Episode 26 Transcript
Transcript: E26 – Overcoming Shame with Kelly Flanagan
E26 – Overcoming Shame with Kelly Flanagan
Eric (00:00:01) – As you follow your heart, as you follow your purpose, you’re gonna end up in unfamiliar territory and that’s gonna rattle your cage from time to time.
Rob (00:00:17) – Hi and welcome to the Living Richly Podcast. My name is Rob Dale and I’m here with my great friend Eric Deschamp and we are so excited today to have with us a special guest. We’ve been talking about it. We mentioned it even in our last episode, Dr. Kelly Flanagan, who is the author of a bunch of books, including a book that we have mentioned so many times on our podcast.
Eric (00:00:42) – I must have recommended this book 30, 40 times at least.
Rob (00:00:45) – Same with so many of our clients and the work we’ve done. The book is called Lovable and the model that is in that book has really impacted not just our lives, but has impacted the model that we introduce as part of the Living Richly program. Dr. Kelly Flanagan is, as we mentioned already, an author. He’s a speaker, personal and relationship coach, a licensed clinical psychologist. My God, this guy does everything. And it’s so good to have you with us, Dr. Kelly Flanagan.
Rob (00:01:19) – Kelly, I know that again, coming in and just being able to have the opportunity to hear from you, but I really want to I’m going to start out by just simply asking you the question like, who the heck are you really? Because this is all wonderful bio stuff. But tell us a little bit about the person, Kelly Flanagan.
Kelly (00:01:37) – Well, I can tell you that we’re in one of those moments in my marriage where my wife would totally agree with you. I do everything and it’s starting to wear a little thin. So I can just feel that energy from her.
Eric (00:01:50) – That’s better than her saying you do nothing.
Kelly (00:01:53) – That’s true. Although it does come across as you don’t do enough here. Right. So but I’m aware of that and trying not to be defensive and trying to hold space for her that I met her in. Let’s see. I met her in 1999 when we got to Penn State for graduate school studying clinical psychology. She studied kids. I studied adults. We were married by 01 in grad school, had our first by 03. We are still in grad school. And, you know, where I sort of start with my story is about 2005 and 2006. We’ve just graduated by 2007. I’ve got a wonderful wife.
Kelly (00:02:36) – I’ve got two kids. I got a Ph.D. Got all the letters I can get behind my name, thriving clinical practice. And for the first time in my life, I got clinically depressed and didn’t know what to do with that. None of the solutions were working. And so my resolution going into 2008 was I’m done reading self-help books. I’m done trying to fix this. I’m going to start to practice some of what I preach and just start to set to go on the inner journey, basically, to settle into myself, start sorting out what’s going on in there, pray, contemplate, meditate.
Kelly (00:03:13) – But none of this reading and striving for better. And it was about April 2008 when I remember I came home from a workout where I’d forced myself not to read a book on the stationary bike. Said to my wife, like, you know, my whole life, I think if I if you told me I was standing in front of God and asked me what God would say, I’d say, God would look at me and say, Kelly, I’m disappointed in you. You can do better. And I said, I said, babe, I don’t think that’s the voice of God. I think that’s the voice of shame.
Kelly (00:03:42) – And I’ve never actually heard the voice of God. And I need to start listening. And and so that’s what I did start in April 2008. I just started listening for what I eventually in lovable called the voice of grace. And and for me, it happened that very first time on a Marine base in 2008. And it was a huge moment of awakening, talking about lives being turned upside down. And it turned my life upside down.
Kelly (00:04:05) – And it really set me on this journey of trying to understand what happened that day, what happened that day when I heard this new voice and and that led me in all sorts of new directions. In 2012, Blue Cross Blue Shield cut my insurance reimbursement rate by 50 percent. And I’m like, oh, I can’t provide for my family now. What am I going to do? I started blogging, wrote a couple of viral blog posts and and wound up on the Today show as a result of a couple of those viral blog posts.
Kelly (00:04:34) – And and really probably the moment, the most probably the most important moment in terms of me getting here today, talking to you because of lovable was after the Today show. My my agent, Kathy Helmers, fantastic agent. But people say, how do you get connected with a fantastic agent? My answer is.
Kelly (00:04:55) – Your boss just happens to be vacationing with Phillip Yancey the day you go on the Today Show and Phillip says, I’m gonna get you connected with my agent. So it’s super simple, right?
Eric (00:05:04) – Right, super easy.
Rob (00:05:04) – Everybody does that.
Kelly (00:05:05) – Yeah, and so I go on the Today Show, I get connected with her and she says, I think you should write a book about parenting. These letters to your kids are going viral. So I go home to my wife who’s the child psychologist and I say, hey, Kathy says I should write a parenting book. And my wife’s like, dude, nope, you got no business writing a parenting book. That’s the last thing you should be doing, what she was correct about, everything I’ve learned about parenting, I’ve learned from her. But it got me sort of asking a question.
Kelly (00:05:33) – So I went through all of the emails I was receiving at the time, right? All of these letters from adult men and women about these letters I’m writing to my three-year-old daughter. And I realized none of them were saying I’m going to give this to my daughter or I’m going to write like one like this for my granddaughter. They were all saying I needed to hear these words. I needed to be reminded that I’m worthy. I needed to be reminded that I’m not alone, that I belong, that I matter.
Kelly (00:05:58) – And it sort of really hit me in the gut for the first time that we all still have a little kid inside of us waiting on a love letter. And I wanted to write a book that was a love letter to the kid inside of me and the kids, the young kids that my kids still were at that time, you know, seven, eight years ago. So that’s sort of the sort of the gestation in the sense of the idea that became lovable.
Rob (00:06:20) – And, you know, you highlight and we’re going to talk about the model and certainly we’ve talked a bit, you know, from our as interpreting the book, the model from our perspective, when we talk about living richly, we talk about the four elements and how you need to lean into. If you’re going to live your best life, you need to lean in, you know, when it comes to the physical element of life, your body, your mind, your relationships and your spirit. And we’re both ex-preachers.
Rob (00:06:49) – You know, we went through our own journey of when we left in both our cases separately as we left the church and what that went through. It was interesting because I know that for both of us, one of the elements and you just highlighted it, that spoke so powerful to us because in the traditional kind of church world, we struggle with the notion of often the church is driven by shame, right? This notion of in church, sorry, not the church, the church world, there is often that interaction that much of what we’re driven by, by shame.
Rob (00:07:19) – And certainly, you know, for us it was often about we’re not good enough. We’re not worthy enough. That’s why we need God in our lives because we’re these horrible, shameful, I’m just a worm, right? As you know.
Eric (00:07:30) – Well, I describe it as trying to balance the ledger, spending most of my life giving, doing good things, hoping that somehow I would put enough on the asset side of the ledger to overcome all the liabilities, right? So when your book was recommended to me, I remember first reading it and at the beginning I’m like, yep, yep, yep, I get this. Yeah, I understand that. These are concepts I’m familiar with.
Eric (00:07:56) – And then you turn the entire thing on its head because you talk about, and again, it’s always a little nervous to be talking or nerve-wracking to be talking to the author because you had an intent when you wrote that book. And I know that very much when I read it, I read it based on where I was at and it spoke very clearly to me. But this notion, perhaps you can walk us through it because you do it for far greater than I, the three basic human needs and how the sequence really, really matters.
Kelly (00:08:26) – Yeah, well, it’s interesting, you know, you talk about the church and how we seem to in the church want to compensate for our shame with purpose. We want to jump right to doing something dramatic to make up for us not being enough.
Kelly (00:08:40) – And so ironically, and I don’t get to talk about this much, the book itself, in its earliest stages, once I decided I wasn’t going to write a parenting book, was a book about purpose and it was called The Day You Find Out Why based upon Mark Twain’s quote, you know, the two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.
Kelly (00:09:02) – But what I was struggling with was to write a book about purpose without first addressing the shame that drives so much of our definition of purpose and our sense of purpose and how magnificent it needs to be and that kind of thing. So the book was sort of almost reverse engineered to go, okay, if we’re actually going to arrive at our calling with clarity and soulfulness, right, rather than ambition and ego, how do we get there? And so I started to send these ideas to Kathy.
Kelly (00:09:33) – She essentially, I give her credit, basically taught me how to write a book, you know, up to that point I’d never written anything longer than about a thousand words on my blog. And I remember I’m sitting in my front yard one day talking to her and she says, okay Flanagan, you keep sending me these three ideas worthiness purpose and belonging. Like why those three?
Kelly (00:09:53) – And I said, no, no, no, no, no. It’s not worthiness, purpose, and belonging. It’s worthiness and then belonging and then purpose. That’s the sequence through which we grow spiritually and emotionally. And she goes, well, that’s what your book needs to be about. No one’s ever said that and it’s true. And so that really became the core concept of the book was this idea that really the foundation of this whole thing is a clear sense of self, a clear connection with one’s soul and the worthiness that we discover there.
Kelly (00:10:24) – And only then can we start to show up to our people in an authentic way so that when our people approve of us or accept us or celebrate us, we know they’re really accepting us. We’re truly belonging to them. They’re not celebrating some persona we’ve crafted because we think we’re not good enough. So worthiness, then belonging, and then with that solid foundation of people who know you and want to see you thrive doing what you love in the world, then we can sort of launch ourselves into our passions.
Kelly (00:10:53) – And I’ve seen it repeat over and over again over the years. I’ll be working with somebody for quite a while, say on relationships, and then you see some real breakthroughs in their relationships, and all of a sudden they come in one day and they’re like, I’ve always wanted to do this thing. And I’m like, yep, I know.
Eric (00:11:11) – Yeah.
Kelly (00:11:11) – And I’m super excited to talk about this now. But what I’ll tell you, and this is sort of built into the book, is I was very clear about not wanting to sort of create another ambition at arriving at a final purpose, with this awareness that when we start to do new things in the world that we really care about and love, we are going to cycle back to questions of our worth all over again. I had this happen literally last spring.
Kelly (00:11:37) – I was making a huge transition in my life out of, I was closing my brick and mortar therapy practice, switching into becoming an online coach of entrepreneurs. I was switching out of writing nonfiction into writing fiction. And I was an absolute wreck of a human being for three months. I had a panic attack at a speaking event. I mean, my wife was there thankfully and it was helpful. Anyways, I was a wreck and I’m like, what’s going on? And I’m like, I think I wrote about this in Lovable.
Kelly (00:12:07) – My passions are carrying me into new territory where I’m having to learn to believe in myself all over again and trust my worthiness no matter what. And I need to go back. I reread Lovable. I love that.
Rob (00:12:19) – It’s a pretty good book.
Eric (00:12:20) – It’s a really good book. Did you reach out to the author? My hearing is really great today.
Kelly (00:12:28) – Yeah, it’s good to reconnect with him a little bit.
Eric (00:12:29) – I love that because we’ve talked about, again, when it comes to living your best life, living your richest life, that it really does begin with loving self. We use the phrase radical self-acceptance because it seems like in our world today, self-acceptance just isn’t cutting it. We need to really lean into, and I absolutely love the language you used at the beginning of the episode when you talked about your journey and how you settled into yourself, I think is how you put it. And I absolutely love that.
Eric (00:13:02) – I go back to, for me, I’ve been doing a lot of this work for a long time. And back when I first read your book, very much still chasing validation, worth, value in my relationships, in what I do. And that’s where I probably burnt more energy and spent more time for most of my adult life. And it wasn’t until literally last year, a bunch of the work that I’d been doing and engaging in, best way I can describe it, Kelly, is it just landed. And I began to describe to people when they said, well, what does that feel like?
Eric (00:13:37) – I said, I’ve never felt this comfortable in my own skin. I’ve never felt this alive. I have never felt this at peace. And yet the work of worthiness, where you really come to accept it, what I hear you saying, and I agree with you 100%, it’s not ever fully done because as you follow your heart, as you follow your purpose, you’re gonna end up in unfamiliar territory and that’s gonna rattle your cage from time to time.
Kelly (00:14:03) – Yeah, and then you start to discover, oh, I came to trust I was good enough for that, but am I good enough for this? Right, right. Now you have to relearn it all over again. And I think, so like, as long as we know that, and as we’ve gone through several cycles of that, when we re-encounter that shame, sort of getting stirred up in us again, it’s not the emergency that it used to be. As long as we understand what’s going on, it’s like, oh, I am going to hear the voice of grace in my life in an even more profound and powerful way than I did last time.
Kelly (00:14:36) – It’s just gonna not feel great for a little bit on the way there. It’s like, ah, I didn’t wanna spend the spring with you, shame, but I guess if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it, right? And so there’s some beautiful things on the other side of it.
Rob (00:14:50) – Talk to me a little bit about, because we’ve got people that maybe, in case of been following our podcast for a while, been listening to a bunch of episodes, but just maybe land in on worthiness. Why is it that so many, all of us, most of us struggle with the idea of worthiness?
Kelly (00:15:11) – Well, you know, the, where I would start with that is, and this is how being a parent really profoundly changed my sense of how we all work, to watch my kids come into the world and to see that to them, they take their worthiness for granted. You know, I think I say in lovable, it’s as natural as, you know, eating animal crackers and playing in the sun rising to them. It’s just part of life.
Kelly (00:15:39) – And so I think the, and I just used moments ago the word shame, you know, that moment where we start to encounter shame in our life, which is the message, and sometimes it’s spoken, sometimes it’s not, but the message that we are not good enough the way that we are to be loved and to belong, that we need to change, we need to alter, we need to become something more, that’s the moment where all of a sudden we go, hmm, and this is mostly unconscious as kids.
Kelly (00:16:09) – I would even argue that we probably don’t remember a whole lot before this moment, that it’s this moment, like why record and be hypervigilant and be thinking about life until you need to, to be safe? And then all of a sudden you get this message about shame. You’re not safe the way you are. You may not belong to us the way you are. We may not love you the way you are. And then all of a sudden, I want to start thinking hard about this. And this is where we start forming this, forming memories.
Kelly (00:16:34) – And so this message that we’re not good enough the way we are, that’s the shame we encounter that sort of rocks our innate sense of worthiness, actually.
Eric (00:16:43) – It’s incredible. I mean, again, I go back to just my own story. One of, we use the word shame. I often describe it the way that I felt about myself was not just shame, but deep self-loathing, that the hope and the, that I would offer others, because here I was as an ex-preacher. I’ve then at that time, a very young preacher standing at the front of the room offering hope to other people. But I fundamentally didn’t believe that it applied to me.
Eric (00:17:15) – And no doubt in your work, you’ve encountered folks that, for some it’s a lot more deep seated and there’s more work required. What are some ways that you help people come to that place of accepting worthiness for themselves?
Kelly (00:17:32) – Yeah, well, and I guess I’ll answer that. I’ll also say, shame sounds dark and big and it sounds like something only bad people must do to us, but shame can also come in the form of, ooh, we really love you when you do that. And then I’ll be like, oh, there’s degrees of love and you love me more when I do that thing and when I perform in that way. And then that must mean if I do this, I’m less love. I mean, it’s so subtle and my goodness, I mean, I do it to my kids to this day. I mean, it’s just something that sort of flows out of us naturally.
Kelly (00:18:10) – And then I think when we get, we actually see subtly that shame works, it actually gets the behaviors we want from people. And so we sort of weaponize it unintentionally in that way. And it can really lead to deep self-loathing. I love the word, Eric, that you used earlier, the phrase radical self-acceptance. Like I think when we start talking about worthiness and self-love, people think it’s this, well, I’m just great. And so I just, I know it’s sort of like a Stuart Smalley sort of like, oh, I’m, you know, I’m doggone it, I’m amazing.
Kelly (00:18:45) – And it’s really not that, it’s the process of going, yeah, that’s true about me and I’m still worthy. Yes, that’s true about me and I’m still lovable. The reason I have a hard break today is that I have a monthly spiritual direction call and I know what we’re talking about today. That the thing that I have the most difficulty accepting about myself, the part of me that I still think makes me unlovable and unworthy is that I can be pretty selfish at times. Somewhere early on in my programming, that was the thing that got heat on.
Kelly (00:19:19) – You can’t be selfish, you can’t be self-interested, right? You can’t be doing it for you. Well, what, how much does that mess with your head? We’re always doing it partly for us, right? And so to loathe ourselves because we have some self-interest is really a huge hurdle to overcome.
Kelly (00:19:38) – And so I said to my spiritual director last month, Marv, I said something and he said, well, I think what I hear you saying is that God will love you when you overcome your selfishness but I think God, or he said, and I think you’re saying God loves you even in spite of your selfishness.
Kelly (00:20:00) – but I think God loves your selfishness itself.” And I was like, nope. I was like, your time is up. That’s why we’re meeting again next month. So I think this radical stuff, well, can I tell you a quick story? Of course, please. CBT So I first started to put my finger on this sort of blind spot in my shame. Probably last September I was at the Apprentice gathering, James Bryant Smith’s conference in Wichita. My agent, Kathy Helmers, was really pushing me on why I was acting some ways.
Kelly (00:20:42) – And finally I said, Oh, the truth is, Kathy, it’s because I think I’m selfish. And I think if anybody finds that out about me, like everybody’s gonna leave me because they’re only around because I’m super kind and giving. And so I just give, give, give. But I think I’m really selfish. And she didn’t say anything. The next day we were in the conference and I was practicing what I practice now. When I feel some shame, I start to try to listen for that other voice, the voice of grace.
Kelly (00:21:11) – And in this case, I actually heard the voice of grace very quickly within me. It was very surprising to me. And the voice of grace said, Kelly, your selfishness didn’t start out as selfishness. It started out as having to raise yourself. And suddenly I could have some compassion for why I’m so stinking selfish and why I have such a hard time breaking it. And so fascinating outcome of that for me was I get home from the conference. The next day, it’s a Monday morning, I’m taking a shower, I get out of the shower.
Kelly (00:21:45) – My wife has done laundry, so there’s no towels on that. That’s right. So I go over to the linen closet, I get myself a towel out and dry myself off. I hang it on my rack and I start to walk out of the bathroom and I’m like, I didn’t get her, didn’t get her towel.
Kelly (00:21:59) – I didn’t put a towel on her rack.
Kelly (00:22:00) – It would have been just as easy to grab her one too. You had to raise yourself. No one was getting you a towel. You weren’t getting a towel for anybody else. Everybody was ships passing in the night, of course. And now that I have some compassion for some of the story behind that selfishness, I don’t have to defend it. I don’t have to ignore it. I don’t have to push it back into my shadow. I can just go, Oh, that was selfish of me. I go get her a towel. Now what’s funny about this, and I’ll bring a lamb this here quickly.
Kelly (00:22:27) – My wife, I texted her two days later, cause we’ve made an agreement that if we’re trying to grow, we’ll share it with each other. Cause sometimes it’s not so easy to see when your partner’s growing. You need them to tell you. So a couple of days later I texted her, I said, Hey, babe, I forgot to tell you this. I realized I didn’t get you a towel in the bathroom the other day. And that was selfish. And so I put a towel on your rack and she texted me back and she says, Oh my gosh, I thought I was going crazy. Cause I knew I didn’t do it.
Kelly (00:22:51) – My wife is more likely to think she’s going insane than to have it occur to her that I would get her a towel. Like that’s how selfish I’ve been over the years. Right. But there’s an acceptance growing of that to the point where I can talk about it here, right out in the open today, which is, which is being yeah, at home in my own skin, comfortable in my own skin, a little more.
Eric (00:23:12) – I, what I so appreciate in listening to you and having the opportunity to have this conversation is, um, you know, cause you, you write this book, everybody, you know, people are reading the book and it’s lots, lots of answers in it. Lots of this journey here you are describing how you are still on the journey and it, it, there’s a continual growth that’s happening. And it’s certainly something that we talk about when we’re in all of it, where certainly none of us have landed anywhere.
Rob (00:23:40) – We’re on a journey on this and it’s certainly for you to be continuing on that journey is, is encouraging, I think to me and, and probably to others to recognize, Oh, okay. So it’s okay that I haven’t quite figured it all out yet, uh, because I’m still figuring it out.
Kelly (00:23:56) – Right. You know, I think, um, a friend said something like that to me recently and my, my, and I appreciated that. My response to him was I’m more fascinated at this point by what I’m not aware of than anything. And I just want to keep growing my awareness because the reality is, you know, what’s in our realm of awareness for the most part, um, we have found some way to make peace with whether it, even if it’s loathing it, you know, but sometimes mostly accepting it, the stuff we really aren’t aware of that we’ve sort of pushed out of our awareness.
Kelly (00:24:32) – Cause we think it’s that unacceptable about us. That’s the really important stuff. So I, I just, I, um, I’m enthralled by, by growing my awareness and, uh, and seeing what, what fruit it produces in life. And, uh, and that’s what drives me, I guess.
Eric (00:24:48) – I love the whole, uh, your whole focus on the selfishness piece. Uh, I know for me, a big part of the journey was redefining selflessness.
Eric (00:24:58) – Because for years that was drilled into me that that is a virtue and it’s about self-sacrifice, it’s about selflessness to the point where I lived most of my, from a young adult on, burning the candle at both ends and thinking that was noble and heroic. I don’t know how many times during the course of my life well-meaning people who cared for me would say, Eric you need to slow down, you need to get a hobby, you need to take care of yourself and yet I had this notion, I really believe that it’s better to burn out than rust out and burn out I did.
Eric (00:25:32) – I went through three severe burn outs, the worst of which was just a few years ago in 2017 and I’ve told the story on the show of that being a life-changing moment for me. But I now look at it as actually putting yourself first is the least selfish thing that we can do. Living ourselves, pouring into ourselves, investing in ourselves is the least selfish act because when we do that then we show up more meaningfully in every role, every relationship, every avenue we find ourselves in.
Eric (00:26:09) – We’re showing up, at least for me the way I see it, I’m showing up not on fumes or with my tank almost empty, I’m showing up as a more authentic expression of myself. What are your thoughts on that? When you talk about the selfishness piece and the selflessness, I’m curious to know what you think.
Kelly (00:26:29) – The leading edge of that for me is that it’s the classic, if you’re on a plane that’s going down and the air drops, put yours on so you can help others. What I’m being challenged on right now is the way that I sneakily use that as a little bit of spiritual bypassing in the sense that I’m like, well, I’ll take care of myself because then I can take care of others. So it’s really not selfish to take care of myself because it will ultimately, and the challenge is, what if you just took care of yourself and it didn’t bear any fruit for anybody else?
Eric (00:27:04) – Would you still be lovable? I’m not comfortable there right now and I want to get there, but I’m not comfortable there. Yeah. Yeah.
Rob (00:27:13) – One of the things that we, so I lied to you earlier.
Rob (00:27:17) – Yeah, that was a good one.
Eric (00:27:20) – I’m still taking that one, I think.
Eric (00:27:21) – I know.
Rob (00:27:22) – But I’m needing to confess right now to you because I lied to you earlier when I said that I just finished reading the book for the second time. It was actually my third attempt at it. I read it fully for the second time recently. The first time I read your book, the first time I started to read your book was early in, it was right after we had actually done a trip to Nashville and we were down there and that’s when the book first got introduced to me in a conversation with a bunch of ex-preachers.
Rob (00:27:49) – And I started to read the book and I was probably a couple of chapters in and I was mad. I probably swore at you and it wasn’t, I still swear at you, but it’s good. Now it’s good when I’m reading it because it’s driving something home.
Eric (00:28:07) – Well as ex-preachers, we feel sometimes the need, we didn’t swear for so long that sometimes we feel like we’re catching up now. We’re making up for it, right?
Rob (00:28:15) – But that first time, the first time was because I was still really angry and hurt by the reaction that the church had when I resigned from pastoring and left that world. I was from an evangelical Pentecostal background and really was just bruised and wounded and hurt and I was anti-anything spiritual, specifically very importantly anti-anything Christian, evangelical Christian sounding. And your book had a bit of that sound to it and I was like, the last thing I’m doing is reading a Christian book on this.
Rob (00:28:53) – It wasn’t until the second time when I read it, I saw, and it was interesting and I’m going somewhere with this, where you had the struggle and the pressure, the outward pressure of some saying your book’s not Christian enough and others saying it’s not secular enough. And you really stood your ground and going with this is we talk about our values being the compass that guides us into whatever we’re doing, right?
Rob (00:29:16) – And it’s language that Eric first introduced to me, but talk to me about how your values guided you through the pressure of first time author getting the pressure to be something and you knew at that point, at least where you wanted to go with this.
Eric (00:29:31) – Man, I feel emotional when you say that, like really known and I appreciate it because it’s a hard space to stay in. You know, it’s one of the biggest challenges probably to my sense of worthiness. I’m an Enneagram three who wants to sell a lot of books in one space or another. And when you straddle the line, you’re not going to probably sell quite as many books, right? And I give a lot of credit to Zondervan for letting me straddle that line.
Kelly (00:30:00) – I’d say part of it for me, Kathy once described me as a Christian without an agenda.
Rob (00:30:10) – I feel that, Kelly.
Kelly (00:30:14) – Right, in part because what I’m so enthralled by in the life of Jesus is that he told stories, and he specifically told them in a way that if people were ready to receive them at various levels they could, and if they weren’t they could get what they wanted out of them or they could walk away from them. He didn’t seem too terribly upset when people walked away from them. He even told his disciples, if they’re not hearing it, just move on, go to the next place.
Kelly (00:30:40) – I’m really enthralled by him in that.
Kelly (00:30:46) – I feel like my job in a project, the first draft I call my ego draft, that’s the one that’s trying to win everybody over.
Rob (00:30:52) – Right.
Eric (00:30:53) – I love that, the ego draft.
Kelly (00:30:56) – My second draft is my true self draft, where I edit myself and where I feel like my soul is aligned back into the manuscript. So that’s where I find myself.
Eric (00:31:13) – I texted Kathy the other day, I’m like, you’ve got to remind me why I’m choosing to write the kinds of books I’m writing, because every once in a while I start to doubt it myself.
Eric (00:31:26) – Kudos to you for, again, being your authentic self. We talk about, in the Living Richly message, a big part of it is the vast majority of people haven’t gotten clear on what really matters to them. What are the values that are guiding them? What kind of life do they want to live? And leaning into it intentionally. We often say that if we don’t figure that stuff out, we will live according to somebody else’s values. We’re going to live as slaves to the shoulds, the musts, and the have-tos, and never really follow the song in our own heart.
Eric (00:31:59) – And for your courage to straddle a line, to live between two worlds, to follow your heart, again, is an example of the values that you share, again, that have been so meaningful to us. And in a moment, we want to give you lots of time to talk about Unhiding of Elijah Campbell and your latest project, The Inner Gathering. We want to hear all about that stuff. I’m curious, one more question that I have for you on the lovable message is this notion of you talk about just getting curious.
Eric (00:32:31) – You talk about what’s not in your awareness that you want to bring into your awareness. And talk to me about your understanding of the difference between approaching that in oneself with a curious compassion as opposed to a harsh inner critic. Because I think for years I brought stuff into my awareness and was seeking to improve myself, but it wasn’t with curiosity or compassion. It was with a very harsh inner critic that I finally gave him his walking papers a few years ago. I told him I didn’t need him anymore. But can you talk to that?
Eric (00:33:08) – Because I think there are some listeners that are listening to this episode and they’re resonating with what is being said, but perhaps their inner critic is already beating the shit out of them as they’re trying to process what it looks like for them.
Kelly (00:33:23) – Yeah, I think this is the really hard part about growing our self-awareness is that if something is outside of our awareness, it’s outside of it for a reason. We’ve deemed it sort of unacceptable. It’s just not something that we want to think about. It’s unpleasant to think about. Carl Jung called it our shadow. We push everything that we think unacceptable about ourselves and our life out into the shadow. What that means, unfortunately, is that when we expand our awareness, what we’re encountering is the leading edge of our shadow.
Kelly (00:33:54) – It’s not going to feel great. At that point, Freud was the first one to say it. Insight and awareness, it heals, but he discovered that it didn’t. That’s because if we keep expanding our awareness, we take in more and more shadow into our awareness and we don’t transform it with self-compassion into something that can stay integrated into who we are and into our sense of worth. Then we will find ways to, the inner critic will just sort of actually get louder and continue, well, why haven’t I overcome that?
Kelly (00:34:29) – Why haven’t I fixed that? Why haven’t I gotten rid of that?
Kelly (00:34:33) – Self-compassion at that moment of awareness is the next step. For me, if you read Lovable, I think one of the most helpful exercises, and I don’t mean one-off exercises like sit down and do a thought experiment sort of thing, but I mean an ongoing practice, is to ask yourself, okay, that thing that you just became aware of about yourself, how old were you when you first experienced that? What does that version of you need from you right now to feel lovable in the midst of that?
Kelly (00:35:07) – I can muster compassion for my kids a lot more easily than I can muster compassion for my, well, maybe not my teenagers. They’re a little hard. They make it hard. But actually, there’s another leading edge of my challenge is having that compassion for my teenagers. They’re just growing their egos like they’re supposed to.
Kelly (00:35:25) – But anyways, if we can personify that new thing we’re aware of in the form of a younger version of ourselves and then look for an opportunity to embrace, love, accept, hold space for that version of us, that can be a powerful practice over time.
Rob (00:35:42) – Wow. Yeah, so absolutely true. So, Kelly, I don’t know if you’re aware of this about yourself, but you’re kind of a big deal. You’re now like, not only are you an author, but you’re an award-winning author. Congratulations on the latest award, the Silver Medal for General Fiction. Maybe just share a little bit, I know you’ve got a few projects, you’ve written this fiction, The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell. Tell us a little bit about that and then the latest project that you’re a part of as well.
Rob (00:36:14) – And I know you, even when we jumped on the call, before we started recording, you talked about the, you got pretty passionate and excited about the new project. So, a little bit about Unhiding Elijah Campbell and then the new project.
Kelly (00:36:27) – Yeah, yeah.
Kelly (00:36:28) – Thank you.
Eric (00:36:29) – By the way, you just created a new appreciation for my teenagers. They are very good at making sure I don’t feel like too big of a deal.
Eric (00:36:37) – Excellent at that.
Eric (00:36:38) – Yeah. Every night at dinner.
Kelly (00:36:40) – That’s good.
Rob (00:36:41) – Just mentioned, start out dinner every night by having your wife acknowledge that you are award-winning, Kelly.
Kelly (00:36:47) – That’s right. And now at the table, your award-winning father.
Eric (00:36:51) – That should go over really well with your teenagers.
Kelly (00:36:56) – Then just let the humbling ensue all the way through dessert. So, yeah, I mean, I did, I’ve had ideas about a fictional book for a while. You know, when these ideas in Lovable really took hold in my wife and I in 2015, we completely upended our lives.
Kelly (00:37:17) – I don’t suggest that that’s going to happen to everybody, but it did for us.
Kelly (00:37:21) – We decided we wanted, you know, if I don’t have to chase my worthiness all around the world, what do I want to do? I actually want to move back to my tiny little town of Dixon, Illinois, raise my family there, slow down a little bit. She quit her job as a tenured professor at Wheaton College.
Kelly (00:37:33) – I quit my W-2 job at a therapy practice and we moved back to Dixon. And after moving back to Dixon, I started to get this idea for a novel. And in the novel, it’s about this guy who creates a midlife crisis by having a psychologist, by having an affair.
Eric (00:37:48) – His wife catches him.
Kelly (00:37:49) – She says, I’m out.
Kelly (00:37:50) – I’m going back to this tiny little town to live with my family.
Kelly (00:37:52) – You can come if you want.
Eric (00:37:54) – So he goes, follows her there, hangs out a shingle.
Kelly (00:37:57) – And over the course of the book, these eight clients actually heal him.
Kelly (00:38:02) – And these eight clients would each represent one of the Beatitudes.
Kelly (00:38:05) – Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn.
Kelly (00:38:08) – And so over the course of the book, which I thought in my head would be called The Shrinking Life, because it’s about him settling into a smaller, more ordinary and more beautiful life.
Kelly (00:38:18) – But he’s also a shrink. So I thought that was clever.
Kelly (00:38:21) – So anyways, it was time to pitch a second book to IVP. And Kathy asked me, what do you think? And one of the things I’ve always wanted to write a book about the Beatitudes. I’m wondering if it could be a nonfiction book about how the Beatitudes walk us through like this midlife passage over like the ricketyness of a bridge and got this sort of vision in my head. And but they’d have to be ideas.
Kelly (00:38:43) – And she said, well, what if they were actually characters? And I was like, I don’t know about that. It’s supposed to be nonfiction.
Kelly (00:38:48) – Well, we pitched it essentially as characters. And IVP came back and said, why don’t you write us a fictional book? Why don’t you write a novel? And I and I did. And that became The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell.
Kelly (00:38:58) – And, you know, basically what it is, it’s a book about how we reached this point in our life where all of the coping strategies that got us to that point.
Kelly (00:39:07) – Right.
Kelly (00:39:08) – They actually start to implode.
Kelly (00:39:10) – And we have to develop new ways of relating to our life, new things we’re pursuing, new ways we’re handling what’s being thrown at us.
Kelly (00:39:19) – And in the book, of course, at the beginning, he doesn’t and his family starts to implode as a result of it.
Kelly (00:39:24) – And so the book is about it’s sort of like going on the journey.
Kelly (00:39:27) – What does it look like to let go of all of the things that you thought were your go to moves?
Kelly (00:39:32) – Right. In order to have success in life and to have what you want and to settle into a more open hearted, less controlling, more deeply loving way of showing up to your life.
Kelly (00:39:42) – And and actually in the book, the first two conversations he has with lost loved ones, with his grandma and his grandpa, they each represent one of the Beatitudes. His grandmother represents blessed are the poor in spirit and his grandpa represents blessed are those who mourn.
Kelly (00:39:56) – And then again, in all our wisdom, my agent Kathy said this book.
Kelly (00:40:00) – becoming about way more than those Beatitudes. And if you need to let these characters do what they need to do to tell the story, you let that happen. And that’s what I did. So after that, the Beatitude theme sort of goes away in the story, but it becomes even more exciting in my mind at least. Wow.
Rob (00:40:15) – So good, so good. And then of course, from there, you’ve gone into now the inner gathering. And what really excites me about this, Kelly, is not just the focus of the book, but how you’re writing the book is different than write what you’ve done in the past. So I’m curious to hear about that.
Kelly (00:40:34) – Yeah, so I have a sequel to The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell coming out called The Keeper of Crimes. I’m in the middle of a full rewrite of that. It’s sort of a sequel to The Town more than to Elijah’s story. But then in the meantime, yeah, I’m writing my next nonfiction book on Substack. I talked to several really smart people at the beginning of the year, and they said, I want to write a nonfiction book, but I just want to write it in public. I want like a serial almost, you know?
Kelly (00:41:00) – And I want to get reader feedback, and then I’m going to throw them in the acknowledge, anybody who gave me feedback, they’ll be in the acknowledgements when this thing’s done. And we’ll just sort of crowdsource the wisdom on this. And so the book is called The Inner Gathering, a guided encounter to your original self and its three protectors.
Kelly (00:41:17) – And so in my mind, in the segue here from Lovable, there’s about two pages in Lovable where I say, at some point when we encountered shame, we had to build an ego to protect ourselves from any more shame, a false self. But we have to learn to love that ego and false self as well. If we reject that shame and ego in us, we are actually just shaming ourselves, which is the reason we needed ego in the first place. And so we’re actually stuck in a cycle of shame and ego if we shame ourselves for having one.
Kelly (00:41:48) – We need to learn to love it, appreciate it, have compassion for it. And that’s basically, it’s sort of like taking those two pages and expanding it out into the course of a book. It’s building sort of the last six years of my understanding of how all this works into a book. And yeah, this morning I sort of laid out The Inner Gathering for the first time. It’s chapter six of the book. I wrote the chapter six. It’ll come out in a couple of weeks on Substech and talked about what The Inner Gathering is.
Kelly (00:42:16) – And I talk about it as the lover, the loner, the hider, the fighter, and the ruler. The lover is our original self, our true self. The loner is our wounded self, the part of us that picked up all that shame and pain. The hider is the first version of our ego, the version of us that was designed to sort of hide us away so we couldn’t get shamed or hurt anymore. The fighter is the part of us that decides to start inflicting hurt rather than hiding from it.
Kelly (00:42:41) – And then the ruler is that sort of more arrived, you know, I’ve got it all figured out version of us that is supposed to bring us all the satisfaction and happiness in life and never really delivers. And ironically, again, in terms of loving these parts of us, we have to, most of us have to experience the ruler to lose faith in it. Otherwise we just kind of keep going, oh, I’ve got to have success. I got to have achievement. That’ll deliver for me. It’s not until we get it, we go, oh, this doesn’t do it either.
Kelly (00:43:09) – I’m gonna have to find another way, right? And so this book, The Inner Gathering on Substech is gonna reflect all of that.
Eric (00:43:15) – Wow, so powerful, so powerful. We’re coming up near the end of our time with you today. We know we’ve got, thank you so much for being here before we wrap things up. I mean, your story, your experience, your journey, what has come out of your journey, what continues to flow out of it. If you had one thing to say to our listeners today to kind of sum up.
Eric (00:43:38) – a word of encouragement or something to lean into, what would you say to them?
Kelly (00:43:44) – Ooh.
Kelly (00:43:45) – I mean, I always start with commit yourself right now to doing some version of what I did in 2008. Slowing down, settling into yourself, being with yourself. It won’t feel great at first. Persist through that. Go in search of practices that help you hold space for yourself. And see what comes from that. Begin to move in the direction of that true self. And lovable, I describe it as the bright underneath. First, when we go underneath the surface of us, it doesn’t feel very good. But if you keep moving, there’s that spark underneath it.
Kelly (00:44:31) – And so that’s always my first encouragement to folks, is to slow down, start the inner journey. If I could convince you right now, I would, you’re never gonna find what you’re looking for on the outer journey.
Eric (00:44:45) – Yeah, so good, so good. We’re so grateful for you taking the time to join us today. Again, you’ve been influencing the two of us and several in our circle for some time through your books, through your writing, and to get to know the personality behind it and to hear more about your journey. I mean, I’ll be recommending the book even more now. And I look forward to diving into your other works. I’m really, you got me really curious about the Inner Gathering now. And I wanna learn so much more about that. But thank you so much for taking the time today.
Kelly (00:45:18) – No, thank you, this was an honor and it was so much fun. I hope that at some point we are in the same room together.
Kelly (00:45:23) – I don’t know how that’ll happen, but I hope it happens.
Rob (00:45:25) – We need to make that happen for sure. We will, for those of you that are listening or watching, we will make sure to include in the show notes for today’s episode, all of the links for, yeah, all of it. We will include the links to Kelly’s Instagram and some of his social media places where you can find him as well as some links to some of the books that are already out. And again, yeah, thank you so much for being a part of our show today and bringing so much great insight. For those of you listening, this is another great opportunity.
Rob (00:45:59) – If you don’t wanna miss out on all of this content and all of the conversations that were happening, make sure that you like and subscribe to the channel in which you are following us on. Make sure that you do that. And again, take some time to share out this episode with people that you think would find it a value that really would be something that you feel they might wanna be able to hear as they’re on their journey. It’s about being a part of the community and you can support us by doing those things.
Eric (00:46:27) – We also encourage you to go to our website, livingrichly.me slash act ACT. There’s all kinds of resources there to help you get into action on the Living Richly message and living your best life. So make sure to avail yourself of those resources. And of course, we’ll be pointing to all of the resources referred to on today’s show in today’s show notes. So thank you so much for joining us and we will see you again next week.