5 Books on Developing a Wholehearted Inner Life and Relationships
I leaned back in my couch, lowered the book, and stared out the window.
It's what I do when something hits me, when a profound written line sinks into my mind and my heart and I need a moment to soak it in.
When a writer constructs just the right turn of phrase or concise metaphor, I reel with envy because I wish I had written something so impossibly simple and beautiful. When you sense in your bones that your inner life doesn't match your outer life, but you want to get healthy and productive, a sentence jumps off the page because it resonates with exactly with the point you need to hear in that moment, in your fragile state.
Making Progress by Sitting Still
Books take us places we haven't been, and often, they take us to places we need to go but are too afraid to venture ourselves.
So the authors are our guides, the chapters our playbook, and each turn of the page is our hope that what we read will not just entertain, but stir something mysterious and beautiful in us. We want to learn, to grow, and to make the most of all the variables in our lives. Somewhere in the pages of the volumes we intend to read, there are theories and truths that might be just what we need to take the next step before us.
5 Books Challenging Me to Develop a Wholehearted Inner Life and Relationships
1. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead - by Brené Brown
- "Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage."
"Because we are hardwired for connection, disconnection always creates pain. Feeling disconnected can be a normal part of life and relationships, but when coupled with the shame of believing that we’re disconnected because we’re not worthy of connection, it creates a pain that we want to numb."
Brown uses research to explore how fear keeps us limited, but courage comes from the most unlikely place. Sometimes we believe the scarcity myth that we never have enough and we will never be enough. But that's not just a personal struggle—it's a society-wide pressure point. Transparency is not easy, but it puts us on the path of joy, belonging, empathy, innovation, and creativity.
- Read this if you want to live more courageously without pretending to be perfect.
2. Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy - by Donald Miller
- "Perhaps that’s another reason true intimacy is so frightening. It’s the one thing we all want, and must give up control to get."
"Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either."
It’s risky to let people close to you, but then again, love is always a risk. Sometimes we just need a compelling reminder that it’s a risk worth taking.
We can try to keep people at arm’s length and impress them, or we can let them step closer and see who we really are. That is the nature of healthy friendships, as well as healthy marriages in which mistakes aren't hidden, but openly admitted. It's what learning to deal with our past looks like, when we're ashamed of who we used to be. Let's be done with hiding behind masks to impress each other.
- Read this if you’re serious about developing flourishing, lifelong relationships with people you can trust.
3. Keep Your Love On! Connection, Communication & Boundaries - by Danny Silk
- "We were made to have our needs met through relationships with people we don’t control. Love—a free choice—is the only thing that will satisfy our hearts."
"It’s only when we remove the option of distance and disconnection from our relationships that we create a safe place to be ourselves. We cast out fear, inviting each other to bring our best selves forward."
Love is a staunch battle of the heart to move toward someone even when you feel you're not being loved in return, but that is the nature of growing relationships through conflict as well as through the good times. Develop a healthy set of boundaries in your marriage, family, friendships, workplace, etc. so you don't let others drain or manipulate your love.
- Read this if you want to develop healthy boundaries, clear communication, and wise decision-making when it comes to your relationships.
4. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter To Life Around the Table - by Shauna Niequist
- "Gather the people you love around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity."
"It happens when we enter the joy and the sorrow of the people we love, and we join together at the table to feed one another and be fed, and while it’s not strictly about food, it doesn’t happen without it. Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another."
In her majestic, relatable way, Niequist weaves stories of her life into the lessons she's learned about community, faith, fragility, relationships, and living fully. It's insightful to read someone else's rich experiences with food and drink and people, and it makes me want to have dinner parties every night because of the love and belonging hospitality can provide.
- Read this if you want inspiring stories and practical examples of creating space to build relationships that matter with people you care about.
5. My Name Is Hope: Anxiety, Depression, and Life after Melancholy - by John Mark Comer
- "We simply cannot bifurcate our soul and body. We are integrated, holistic beings. How you treat your body influences your soul, for better or worse."
"Most people are very in tune with how they feel, but oblivious to how they think."
"For all our intelligence, ingenuity, and brilliance, we remain a violent, hurting people. We don’t know how to repair the soul."
We will never fix our external behavior unless we address our internal wounds. Healing works inside out, otherwise we're just treating the symptoms on the outside.
Thinking is connected to our feeling, and even influences it immensely. So when we wrestle with depression and anxiety, part of getting healthy isn't just addressing our feelings, but our thinking. Our minds are powerful tools for good or for ill, so let's cultivate minds that engage ideas with hope over cynicism, construction over destruction, loving others instead of hating ourselves.
- Read this to learn to think and feel deeply, which will grow your ability to understand your own fragility and empathize with others.