Better Off? How Limitations Lead to the Community We Need: Kelly Kapic
You're only human. But could that bring the connection you crave? Author Kelly Kapic explains how embracing limitations leads to relationships that matter.
About the Guest
- Purchase Kelly's book You're Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God's Design and Why That's Good News
- Watch Kelly Give a Talk at Covenant College about Humility: JoyFul Realism: Watch a live talk with Kelly Kapic on Humility.
- The Power of Vulnerability -- Listen to Brene Brown's TED Talk
- Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!
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You’re only human. But could that bring the connection you crave? Author Kelly Kapic explains how embracing limitations leads to relationships that matter.
Better Off? How Limitations Lead to the Community We Need: Kelly Kapic
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most, I’m Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife-
Dave: Remember when we first got married, anytime you asked me if I was good at something [Laughter] what did I say?
Ann: Yes! Every single time no matter what it was. You know I’d say, “Hey can you do this? Are you very good at this?” and every time you’d say, “I’m great at this.” [Laughter]
Dave: I really did. I was so naïve.
Kelly: Did you mean it?
Dave: No, I actually thought I was. I mean one of them was, we’d go snow skiing- [Laughter]
Ann: –for the first time and
Dave: –she’s like, “Are you good at this?” I’m like, “Oh, I’m amazing.” [Laughter] Now all she needed to do was look. I have jeans on.
Ann: He starts going down the mountain, he hits the snow fence, you know those orange--
Kelly: –Yes, yes.
Ann: –hits it, the whole fence-
Kelly: –wraps around him-
Ann: –topples down, wraps around him. His skis are flying off, his goggles, and he’s laughing hysterically.
Dave: I thought that was the goal, to wipe out. [Laughter] One of my pockets ripped off and I’m like–yes, I’m great at this.
Ann: I do remember thinking, watching you go down the hill, I thought it would be a ride to be married to this guy [Laughter] and it has been.
Dave: It’s been forty-two years is it the ride--
Ann: –it totally is, and I love your confidence because I’m the opposite of that.
Dave: Well, I thought it’d be interesting to talk about that yes, because we’ve got Kelly Kapic back in the studio. You’ve written a book called You’re Only Human and I’m like acting like I’m superhuman [Laughter] so welcome back. I bring that up because I really was self-deceived.
Kelly: Yes, yes, yes.
Dave: I mean my mom told me every day of my life, she was incredible, single mom. My dad walked out when I was a little boy but my mom, “You are amazing. You can do anything.” I sort of believed it. everyday
Ann: –but most of us don’t believe that. [Laughter]
Ann: –I’m like, “Yes mom, that’s because you’re my mom.”
Dave: Well, I shouldn’t have believed it [Laughter] because obviously I wasn’t very good. I said the same thing about ice skating, and I couldn’t even stand up. “Oh I’m great.” [Laughter] So when you talk about You’re Only Human, it’s like we have limitations. Is it a good thing? We’ve talked about this already, but is it a good thing to embrace those limitations?
Kelly: Yes, it is. So, you do have these extremes, right? On the one hand you have people who have a confidence that’s not based in reality. [Laughter]
Dave: That was me.
Kelly: And we call that arrogance, right?
Dave: That’s right.
Ann: There it is.
Dave: Hey, can we turn off his mic now?
Kelly: But we also deal with people, and this is pretty common in certain Christian circles, where we downplay gifts and strengths you have. I remember years ago there was this ballet at our college and one of the students, she is an amazing dancer. Afterwards one of my colleagues said, “That was like so amazing what you did,” and she was like, “Well, it wasn’t that good.” I think we actually train Christians to think that’s how you’re supposed to respond.
Ann: That’s humble
Dave: My mentor in college - I didn’t come to Christ until my junior year. This senior student actually discipled me and mentored me. I’ll never forget Bill told me a story one time he was mentoring this guy and he was a young student and he’s teaching him how to speak and preach. This guy gets up and gives this message. Bill goes up to him and goes, “Dude, you killed it. That was awesome, great job,” and the kid goes, “Oh, it wasn’t me it was all Jesus. I didn’t do a very good job, but it was all Jesus.”
He goes, “No, no, no, no. You did a really good job.”
Dave: He goes, “No it wasn’t me; it was all Jesus.” Finally, Bill said, I looked at him and said, “It wasn’t that good.” [Laughter]
Kelly: Now that’s brilliant, right?
Dave: But that’s sort of what we do. We have that balance, right? And I was obviously, I was arrogant. [Laughter]
Kelly: I’m not, hey listen I’m not on the clock here. I’m not getting paid for this marriage counseling thing right now. [Laughter] No I’m not saying you’re arrogant but there is one extreme that is arrogance and the other is kind of self-hatred and belittling self. Part of thinking through Christian humility is rethinking it a little bit.
Dave: Let’s rethink humility.
Kelly: Yes, yes.
Dave: You talk about it in your book, I want to know how do we understand this?
Kelly: Well, you see this particularly in the second option of those two extremes. If you ask a lot of Christians and you don’t set it up you just go, “Hey why should we be humble?” The standard answer is, “Well, because we’re sinners.” We are sinners. The fact that we are sinners should contribute to our humility. But what you find in the history of the church and our own experiences, is when you build the idea of humility on the foundation of sin it actually distorts and messes up the whole thing. Because what’s happening is then if–because we all you know, we all like we should be humble. How do you grow in humility, by focusing on how bad you are?
Kelly: That can breed self-hatred, all these other kinds of things. But if you realize no, no, no, humility is based on the goodness of God’s creation and before there’s sinner fall, we were as we talk about in day one, we’re made to be dependent on God, dependent on our neighbor, and dependent on the earth. Those dependencies are fundamental to humility, right?
A humility is a right recognition, I am a good creature who’s dependent on God, dependent on my neighbor, and dependent on the earth. It’s just what you call realism, right? So, you’re able to speak truthfully about strengths and weaknesses and those kinds of things. So, there are ways to grow in humility. It’s not–sometimes people go, “Either you have it, or you don’t.” But actually, rather than just beating yourself up, you can cultivate humility by learning to delight in other people, rather than viewing everyone as competition, even if it’s subtle, even in some Christian kind of baptized ways. To actually learn to look for other people’s gifts and delight in them and enjoy them. Does that make sense?
Dave: Oh yes.
Kelly: When we talk about families, one of the things that my wife and I are very passionate about is resisting sibling rivalry, and from early on trying to help kids learn to delight in one another and to celebrate one another. That is hard. I’m not naive as a parent but you’ve got to do it. A lot of us parents, without meaning to, cultivate this competition between the kids which really is unhealthy and hurts them. Humility is this recognition of the joy of being dependent upon others and God and the earth.
Dave: How did you do that with your kids, the sibling rivalry thing?
Kelly: Yes, some of it’s–I have permission to tell this story, but my son who is old, is two years older has dyslexia and dysgraphia. We didn’t find out until later but that means for listeners that don’t know it, reading in school has been super hard.
His sister is two years younger than him is like–has always been amazing. When they were little, we had them share a room until they were much older and she would read to him every night. You know I would kind of do devotions and stuff, but she would read to him. Even though he was older he would need her to read to him. And yet he was this amazing kid with Lego and some other things, and it was trying to help her learn to celebrate that. It actually did cultivate in them empathy, but it was like no, no, no, this is your brother’s time now or this is your sister’s. We’re going to be here to support. I think those are some concrete examples.
Ann: I remember there was a mom who was older than I was, and we were talking about sibling rivalry and she said, “I never complimented my kids in front of the other one.” I remember thinking, “Man, I don’t know if that’s a good piece of advice,” so what we started doing is we started complimenting and seeing and noticing and then saying the gifts each child had.
Kelly: Yes, that’s good.
Ann: Like it’s cool, isn’t it cool that CJ is so good with tech stuff like who is like him? He is unbelievable, and then Cody and then Austin. So, to say distinctly, “Guys, God makes us all so different. Isn’t it fun to see how different your brother is?” But if you only have things like, “Hey, I’m only going to give everybody five dollars for getting an A, the son that’s struggling in school, what’s that going to be like for him?
Ann: I think that’s really wise that we’re celebrating each other, and I was like teary thinking of your daughter reading but he’s delighting that she’s reading to him.
Kelly: Yes – and they’re really–I think their closeness goes back to some of that, right?
Ann: That’s so sweet.
Kelly: When you tell the story about a well-meaning parent saying, “Listen, I didn’t compliment a kid in front of another,” one of the things that happens, and Christians we do this all the time. It’s kind of like, you know when you jumped up and played the guitar before we got started, like I hate you. [Laughter] Because I so wanted to learn guitar and I–you know I remember I went through the stage where I got like, where your callouses form on your fingers and whatever, but when I would go from one song to the next, they all sounded the same. [Laughter]
I had a friend who just like picked it up and it was amazing and he could play a 12 string and all of that. Here’s where I think it’s interesting, we’re more comfortable recognizing–part of the reason diversity matters is people with different experiences and backgrounds help us see our blind spots. But people also help us see our strengths. I think Christians sometimes unintentionally, “Oh, he’s good on the guitar. We don’t want him to become arrogant, so we’ll never say anything nice about it.”
I just want parents and Christians to know that’s called manipulation. [Laughter] Right? That’s what we’re doing is manipulating people. I remember dealing with a former student whose father was a pastor and he never, for some reason, never told her she was beautiful. She’s beautiful, but she’s married with kids. It’s still an issue.
Ann: She doesn’t believe she’s beautiful.
Kelly: Yes, and just kind of trying to have to work through some of those things. Christians can speak truthfully and it’s beautiful, and we don’t have to worry about that. But don’t say things that aren’t true. Don’t say, “Kelly you’re amazing at guitar,” when I suck. [Laughter] If your kid’s no good at soccer, I mean as a college professor part of what we deal with is kids who’ve been told they’re amazing and the best and the brightest and all of a sudden, they realize they’re not.
Kelly: And the wheels start to fall off. It is about speaking truth and trying to figure out strengths and weaknesses and lean into that. You know people have–there are people who will walk up, three or four people will be talking, and that person walks up and everyone just relaxes and feels comfortable. They don’t even realize it but they’ve got the gift of hospitality. Other people need to help them see that they have that gift, so they’ll cultivate it, they’ll use it without being nervous.
Ann: I think that’s really true. And probably Dave, that’s why I go up to people that I don’t even know very well and we’ll say-
Kelly: -This is fascinating.- [Laughter]
Dave: –She does.-
Kelly: –She could write a book about this.-
Dave: –Yes, she should. I’m like can we get on the airplane-
Ann: –But Kelly it’s because I was so insecure growing up in my early 20s too and I have such a performance orientated background that everyone was my competition. So I would see great things about people but I would never say it, because I felt like that–“I hate you.” - and then I would – I couldn’t get over it because it made me feel worse about myself. But as I start to learn who Jesus says I am, I see these great things in people and now I want to tell them. I can’t tell you how often-
Kelly: –That’s beautiful.-
Ann: –people have said, “No one’s ever told me that.” I’m like, “What? It’s so obvious you have such a gift in this area.” I wish we would do that more as Christians. and it’s easy for me so I’m not saying everybody can do it.
Kelly: Recognizing our own gifts is difficult because they’re more natural. It doesn’t mean we don’t have to work at them-
Ann: Oh, right, yes.
Kelly: –but because they do come a bit more naturally, we just assume everyone–like I told you. I can’t spell to save my life. I’m not good at numbers, but I have a colleague who also has a PhD and he’s, “Honestly, if you just tried harder.” I’m like, “Dude it’s not trying harder.”
Kelly: You know some of it’s just until you meet people who don’t have those things, it’s hard for you to realize what’s gift, what’s you know. So gifts require hard work, but there is just also difference. When we’re gifted at things it’s hard for us to recognize it.
Dave: And it’s hard, that’s why I want to hear what you think about vulnerability, because it’s hard to admit our limits. You know you talk in your book You’re Only Human about our limits. I think we spend most our life covering up our limits.
Dave: –I don’t have limits.
Ann: –Wait, I think most people do see all their limits.
Dave: No. What I’m saying is we see them. We know them.
Kelly: We’re hiding them.
Dave: Not going to let you see them.
Ann: Oh, I see what you’re saying
Dave: So, vulnerability means I take down the mask, I let you see my – I mean the church for decades was a place you could go and never show limits The people on the stage, the pastor are perfect. The other marriages sitting around me are better than mine and so you put up the, “I don’t have limits. We’re good,”
Kelly: Yes, yes, yes.
Dave: When the–humility and vulnerability mean, “No, we’re not good,” and to be self-aware is to be able to show that. Is that true?
Kelly: Oh, that’s so good. I’m so glad you asked this. Because no one has asked that kind of question exactly in an interview. It makes me think of, you know Brené Brown and she did this Ted Talk on vulnerability - and last time I checked I think it’s like 16 million views. And one of her later, I don’t think it's actually in a written form, it’s an audio book. It’s like Men, Women and Vulnerability [The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage] or something like that.
She tells this amazing story that I’d love for your listeners to hear because she’s signing books on vulnerability, you know this kind of thing, huge line. She says this woman and two daughters come and a husband come. She starts to sign the books and the husband says to her, “I really love your book. I love everything you have to say about vulnerability,” and she says, “Thank you.”
Then the wife says, “Let’s go,” and he says, “No, I have something else to ask Brené Brown.” The wife is like super uncomfortable and she’s like, “No. We’ve got to go.” The husband is like, “No. I’m going to ask her something.” She’s like, “Alright. Me and the girls will be in the back.”
So, it’s just her [Brené Brown] and he has this line behind him. He says, “I noticed that when you write about vulnerability you never write about men, and I love everything you have to say. but why don’t you?” And she said when she talked about it later she said, “Oh I thought I had a great answer.” She just said, “Well, I never study men. I just study women.” And he said, “Oh, isn’t that convenient.”
And then he said, “Because guys, when we try and be vulnerable, we get the ‘blank’ kicked out of us.” Then he said to her, “Before you start talking about those mean coaches, and unfair dads, and cruel dads and all of that,” he said, “I’m just going to tell you that woman and those girls that just went by, they would rather see me die on my white horse than fall off.” In other words, it was one of these ‘aha’ moments for her because what he was saying is, “Everyone likes to talk about vulnerability. Men are not really actually allowed.” I think that’s worth us thinking through in terms of healthy vulnerability is worth exploring, yes.
Ann: Do you guys feel like that? Is that true for you?
Dave: Oh, now you’re going to go after us? [Laughter]
Ann: No I’m just-
Dave: –I’ll let Kelly answer that one.
Ann: –I’ve never thought of that because I value vulnerability so much, but do you feel like maybe even our society hasn’t allowed men?
Kelly: I do think there’s just a weightiness there.-
Ann: –that men are carrying.
Kelly: –Yes that–and I think all of us carry but I bring up the men part because I don’t think it gets enough attention, you know, and it’s at least worth spouses talking about.
Dave: Yes, and I definitely feel that. We live in a culture that is more open now to vulnerability but there’s still a sense as a man, as a husband, as a dad, as a worker, I should be good, not completely vulnerable and weak all the time. [Laughter] So there are some that I’ve got to sort of hold back. You know I want my kids to think, “I can trust dad. He’s strong.”
Dave: But at the same time I want them to know I’m not going to hide.
Kelly: Right, right, right
Dave: And so there’s that tension. I’m guessing women feel the same thing.
Kelly: It is interesting to scratch below the surface and figure out those areas like when you talk about being young, when are we carrying weight and we don’t realize we’re carrying it, right? I do feel that with students even. There is a certain sense of trying to be vulnerable, not sharing in inappropriate ways-
Kelly: –but you know you guys do it–do so much marriage counseling and leading, and part of it is you don’t want, these people have a romanticized view of marriage.
Kelly: It's got to be more healthy, right? It’s got to be we’re in this–we’re finite and we’re sinners and we’re trying to navigate that.
Dave: I think there’s a balance of, even on this program or I know when I preached, I was always hoping two things would happen. One the listener would go, “Wow. He’s like me,” or “They’re like me. They struggle in their marriage like we do.” But the other side is I’m hoping they’re going, “But they have a victory in Jesus and a power in the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure I’ve accessed like that. I want to be back. I want to learn more.” So, both are true. It’s sort of the sinner-saint thing. There is a real righteous in Christ I can see it in you. At the same time they’re admitting that they’re limited and they’re only human in your terms, but both are true. That’s a magnet. I want to be drawn to Christ through Kelly.
Kelly: Yes, no that’s beautiful. I’m glad you brought up Jesus. Part of what’s so stunning about you know, the eternal Son of God becoming human is He really is like us in all ways without sin. He becomes this sympathetic High Priest. Part of the gospel that’s so stunning is the sympathetic Savior. But He’s not just sympathetic, but He’s a crucified and risen Savior. He’s sympathetic and can do something about it, right?
Ann: That’s good.
Kelly: - It’s kind of like if a student complains to another student about a grade, they can be sympathetic. If they complain to me, and I have good reason, I can be sympathetic and fix it. I do think there’s something powerful about the vulnerability in the incarnation. But it’s not just sympathy, there’s promise and hope like you’re talking about.
Dave: Kelly what you said as a dad and as a husband, I thought I want to be that. I want to be approachable for Ann and my boys and now my grandkids and daughters-in-law, because they know he’s tender. They know he’s vulnerable. But they are also drawn to strength and he can help fix something. It’s the incarnation of Jesus. The Good News is we’re called to live that out in our communities but man, especially in our homes.
Kelly: I do think a very practical suggestion for individuals and families and communities is actually one of the ways we can cultivate humility and just embracing our humanity is to cultivate both gratitude and lament.
Gratitude and lament they’re two sides of the same coin. When I hear your son’s story, part of what’s going on there is actually an embracing of your humanity and it sounds like it’s not trusting God but it’s actually the opposite. You’re angry with God because you actually are acknowledging His sovereignty.
Kelly: And it–the Psalms, 40 percent of the Psalms are lament. It’s like, “God where were you, why this, why not, how is this…” those kinds of questions. Those are actually laments, cultivating laments, help us recognize our humanity. It is an expression of humility. And gratitude is the flip side. It’s not making stuff up that you're grateful for. There’s just so much, you know all good gifts are from above.
It’s interesting I’ve worked with some Christian psychologists, one is Robert Emmons from UC Davis and for 20 years been studying gratitude, just as a secular–in psychology although he’s a Christian. They found if you have someone start a gratitude journal and do it for 30 days and all you have to do is every day write 5 things you’re grateful for. It could be like a really crisp apple, someone was nice to me at the grocery store, you do that for 30 days there’s all these empirical things that change. You tend to sleep a little longer, blood pressure goes down, all these kind–it’s fascinating.
Well, gratitude is an expression of like, “I am not making this whole thing happen, I need others, I need God and gratitude is the expression of that. So anyways I do think this stuff can sound very heady but just the simple practices of gratitude and lament are really powerful. They’re actually acts of worship.
Ann: I really like getting a chance to interview Kelly Kapic.
Dave: He was awesome.
Ann: Yes, what did you like?
Dave: I loved his demeanor. I feel like his book You’re Only Human was about our limitations, but he kept, it’s just like he kept forcing us back to our identity in Christ and how yes, we’re human, we have limitations. But we’re also powerful image bearers of Jesus and we can literally change the world because we’re His sons and daughters. I don’t know, that’s what hit me.
Ann: I think his words are weighty, not only because he has two kids of his own, but because he’s teaching in a classroom of college students five days a week, so he’s interacting with kids that are really experiencing this and longing to know who they are in Christ.
Dave: Yes, and I would just say thank you to you listeners who support this ministry financially and pray for us. These are the kinds of programs that get to go into the homes of your neighbors. If you’re not a financial partner with us, jump in. Jump in and start giving monthly. It makes the program happen and it makes it possible to share with others. Literally the shows like we just had with Kelly will change your family.
Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Kelly Kapic on FamilyLife Today. You know Kelly has written a book called You’re Only Human. They mentioned it earlier. It talks about how our limits reflect God’s design and why that’s actually good news instead of bad news. In that book Kelly invites you to rest in the joy and relief of knowing that God can use your limitations. How? To foster freedom and joy and growth and community.
This book is going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. What Dave was talking about earlier, is really true. You partner with us and you make conversations like today’s possible to get into the homes of thousands of people across the country. So, if you’d like to partner with us you can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, ‘F’ as in family, ‘L’ as in life and then the word TODAY.
And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you like. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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