Brené Brown on the Way Willie Nelson’s Version of “Amazing Grace” Changed Her Life

Brené Brown, center, with Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson.
Courtesy of Brené Brown.

Texas Monthly excerpt. Click HERE for original article.

Brené Brown: I was losing my mind a little bit. So I had to make the decision about this conference. And I grabbed my iPod and my headphones, and I went to my playlist, my iGod playlist, and Willie’s “Amazing Grace” came on. Well, up until that moment, I thought the lyric was, “Twas grace that taught my heart to feel.”

But when Willie sang it—and remember I had 20 versions of this already that I’d been listening to for a year—he’s saying, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,” not “feel,” “And grace, my fears relieved.” I’m walking through my neighborhood, and I just stop. And I’m like, “What the hell?” And I played it back. And again, “Grace that taught my heart to fear . . . Grace that taught my heart to fear . . . Grace that taught my heart to fear.”

And I couldn’t believe it. I was really shocked that it wasn’t “feel.” And then all of a sudden it dawned on me that I didn’t know how to be afraid. I don’t know how to be afraid. And that’s the grace part. And then it was so weird because I went back immediately and listened to all the other versions, and I’m like, “Of course they’re saying ‘fear.’ Grace taught my heart how to fear—and fears, it released.”

And in that moment— I’m a pretty deeply spiritual person, Episcopalian by practice—in practice, I’m a member of the Episcopal Church. In my heart, I’m probably a mystic Catholic, and in my head, I’m probably a contemplative-theologian person.

Somehow that all makes sense to me. That’s my Holy Trinity anyway. That and Lake Travis. And so I end up going. I end up saying, “You know what? I’m going on this trip. I can be afraid and go at the same time. Both things can be true. I just need grace. Both things can be true. I can be afraid and go—I just need this ‘Amazing Grace’ that Willie’s talking about here.”

So I go to the Barnes & Noble by my house, and I just grab a journal, and I get to Galway. It’s my first morning there. I say, “I am going to go pray at the edge of the water.” I climb this grassy hill, and I’m looking for somewhere to sit, and there’s fifty rocks, shaped like a heart. I don’t know, I mean it’s just if I explain it wouldn’t be real. And so I go like—so I sit on it, and then I listen to Willie sing ”Amazing Grace.” It’s going to get weirder. And then I look out, and I see the Aran Islands. I open my journal, which I just picked because I love the color forest green—but there’s a Celtic cross on the front of it that I didn’t even see when I bought it. And somehow I hit “shuffle” on my iPod, and the next song that comes on is “Into the Mystic,” by Van Morrison. I’m like, “Okay, I get it.” [Laughs]

Be sure to read the entire article at Texas Monthly.


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