We all want to be heroes in our own stories. But when we try to craft a heroic narrative for ourselves, what Joseph Campbell deemed the “mythic journey,” one big thing stands in our way: our failures.

The second act—where a story’s hero endures a trial or crisis—never seems to end. Eager for resolution and happy endings, we rush through our own struggles to reach the good part. “We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending,” writes author and researcher Brené Brown.

Brown's latest book, Rising Strong, encourages readers to embrace their stories, difficult chapters and all. Failure is inevitable, she writes. But how we handle that failure can make the difference between becoming more hurt, shut-off, and defensive or leading what she calls a “wholehearted” life. Regardless of how much responsibility we feel for our circumstances, surviving them requires owning the role we have played.

Brown, who teaches at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, talks about applying the principles in her book to failures ranging from small to large. But Rising Strong will resonate most with readers who find themselves in a difficult chapter in their lives.

The rush to redemption that Brown describes might be especially prevalent in Christian communities. Our focus on the gospel and the ultimate story of redemption has made us, at times, prone to dismiss or downplay pain and struggle. When difficulties arise, we want to reassure one another that we don’t give failure more power than God. We tell ourselves and each other, “But God is greater than this problem.” We diminish ...

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