We asked 35 Christian leaders, “Who is the influencer with the biggest impact on your life and ministry?” Most of these leaders listed several influential thinkers, writers, innovators, and leaders more of us should get to know. This response is from Becky Ahlberg, executive director of My Safe Harbor, Anaheim, California.
This was a difficult assignment. When you’ve been in the ministry for 45 years, you’ve had to do A LOT of thinking! The question also comes at an interesting time in my life when so many of the thought leaders that shaped me and my choices are either gone (Russell Boatman, Burris Butler, Doug Dickey, Tom Friskney, Medford Jones, Doug Reahm, Floyd Strater, Myron Taylor, Dorothy Keister Walker, my father, Gene Carter) or retired (Harold Best, Tim Coop, Eleanor Daniel, Raymond Fuller, Roger and Roy Koerner, Roy Lawson [OK, he’s retired three times now and is still back in the thick of things and still influencing my thinking], Paul McReynolds, Gary Tiffin, and a host of others).
It took quite a cadre of thinkers to shape and influence me, and I was particularly blessed with a remarkably astute group!
Today my thought leaders include Ben Cachiaras, Carol Dweck, Ken Gire, Tim Keller, Patrick Lencioni, Ruby Payne, N.T. Wright, and Philip Yancey to name the ones I go to most.
One thought leader who has had a profound impact on me of late is Brené Brown. She is an American scholar, author, and public speaker who serves as a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and has built a new program called The Daring Way that trains and certifies professionals working in counseling, group therapy, coaching, and spiritual formation. One of her trademark sayings is “dare greatly.”
I first encountered her through a TED Talks video back in 2012 and have since been captivated by her take on things. Her research on shame, vulnerability, and human connections has transformed our work at My Safe Harbor, and her books have been particularly helpful on a personal level. A sampling of her considerable wisdom:
• “I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort,’ but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.’”
• “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.”
• “In relationships, we are given threads. We can use these threads to weave webs that trap others or to weave blankets of support.”
• “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
• “Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.”
Check out her website, brenebrown.com, for more information and inspiration. She’ll make you think!