Love Is an Inside Job

Getting Vulnerable with God


By Romal Tune

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Faith in God plus therapy are the combination that leads to wholeness. Tune’s story of his faith/therapy path to authenticity with God will empower you for your own life journey.

Tune is the son of a drug-addicted single parent mother, who herself, inherited deeply ingrained obstacles to self-love. He found his way out of poverty via the military. He graduated from Howard University and Duke School of Divinity. He was a minister, a sought-after speaker, and social entrepreneur. Outwardly, he was successful, an overcomer. Yet, his past, hidden childhood trauma would sometimes revolt, causing self-sabotage that threatened to destroy the life he was creating. He worked hard to keep the emotional brokenness caused by the challenges of his upbringing carefully hidden — especially from the church. His mother, with whom he successfully reconciled after she was finally free from addiction, died of lung cancer. Then he divorced — a second time. Feeling like a failure, questioning his faith and will to live, he made a choice not to give up but to examine his life and seek counseling. Dubbed “Brother Brown” (a Black man’s Brene Brown), his book shares his process of applying therapy and faith to anger, shame, self-doubt and plaguing memories. Romal learned that the pursuit of success was not the key to healing the inner turmoil but it was in learning to accept the love of God and learning to love the wounded child within. His past pain was redeemed as self-worth and he finally found inner peace. No longer carrying the weight of secrets, guilt and shame, he emerged emotionally free and more powerful than ever. His book will empower others to stop living a past driven present by healing their stories, embracing the love of God, and learning to truly love themselves.


Advance praise for
Love Is an Inside Job

"This book is a beautiful reminder from a man who weaves his love for Jesus with real talk about vulnerability in a way that everyone can relate to and learn from. Romal kicks the doors of complacency open wide and, with arms outstretched, invites us to enter into wholeness."

—Bob Goff, author of Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

"I love books that fully engage you from the first page—with deep humanity, dear honesty, and yes vulnerability! Books like this. I fear that I write far too abstractly and theoretically compared to Romal Tune. Read and meet a man on the real journey. It will change the way you see life, death, and perhaps even God."

—Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., author of Falling Upward and Breathing Under Water

"All of us face challenges as we seek to live lives of purpose and meaning, but Romal Tune has faced more than his share. Every story in this book says, 'There's a way through'—if you are willing to do hard inner work and give yourself to God's love. For those in search of inner peace and deeper meaning, this book will serve as a guide and a sign of hope."

—Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, and On the Brink of Everything

"I found Romal Tune's book riveting, real, and relevant to anyone who wants to live their best life and who knows that requires doing the work to heal from the wounds inflicted along the way. Romal is honest about his wins, his losses, and what he is doing to improve and shows us what we all can do to improve. He is going to help a lot of people with this work."

—Brian Courtney Wilson, Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter/Recording Artist

"A resounding thanks to Romal Tune for reminding me once again that vulnerability is one of our greatest superpowers! Love Is an Inside Job is an emancipating message for those of us searching for a deeper, more authentic relationship with ourselves, the calling on our lives, and, yes, with God. Through the lens of Tune's life lessons, this book shows what true, unconditional love can look like for all of us."

—Shawn Dove, CEO, Campaign for Black Male Achievement


To Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself, Get Vulnerable with God

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Matthew 22:36–40 KJV

My follow-up question after Jesus explained the greatest commandment went something like this: "How do I love my neighbor when I don't love myself?" What I felt for myself was shame about a past that haunted me—guilt and fear—not self-love. I loved others if they loved me first. If they loved me, I'd have reason to love myself.

Loving God with my "all"—with my whole self—meant going all in. I didn't go all in for anything. I didn't totally trust or show all my feelings to anyone. Sermons I heard in church talked about the things God gives to those God loves, so if I received what I wanted, then God loved me and I'd love God back. God and I were cool. But when life wasn't going my way, that meant God had let me down, abandoned me, like everyone else who was supposed to love me unconditionally. God and I were distant. I was used to disappointment, so I could handle God not loving me. No sweat.

My love for God and my love for people was cautious love. I kept up a wall. I didn't let down my guard. In every case in my life—from family, to friends, to marriage, to church, I had been somehow disappointed. I wasn't willing to risk being let down or hurt again.

This book is about how I moved from my idea of being loved by God based on what God did for me, to experiencing God's unconditional love for me, which helped me love myself and love others. I wanted to be a better person, experience peace of mind, and overcome my constant fear of never being enough for myself, God, or anyone else. Discovering the power of vulnerability opened the door for me to become the person I truly desired to be and live the life I have always wanted—a life free from anxiety, dread of the future, fear of failure, and loneliness. Learning that love starts inside me—with vulnerability to God—has given me a new sense of freedom. The route to that most profound relationship with God was vulnerability. Receiving God's love meant being vulnerable with God. Loving God meant being vulnerable with God. In vulnerability with God, I discovered self-love. From self-love, my relationships have been transformed.

I've carried a lot of emotional baggage my whole life. My baggage was not the kind you can carry on a flight and place in an overhead bin. Mine was like the baggage you place on the scale at the check-in counter and you hear the clerk say: "Your baggage is over the weight limit and you're going to have to pay for that." Yes, my baggage has been heavy and I've paid dearly in inner pain, fractured relationships, and life drama. For a long time, I knew it was over the weight limit but I carried it anyway. I thought I needed it for my manhood, the person I wanted to show the world, and I paid a high price. The cost was my peace of mind, happiness, friendships, and loss of those I loved.

Throughout this book, I will shares stories from my past that I finally had to confront on my journey to embracing the love of God, the love of myself, and the ability to love others. This is about the oftentimes complicated road to redemption, forgiveness, and the need for grace. My hope is that as you read this book, you will be able to glean lessons and tools from my mistakes as well as my healing that will be useful to you on your own journey to become the best version of yourself that you can possibly become in your lifetime. Love is an inside job, and sometimes your secrets are the source of your sorrows. Doing the inner work allows you to confront your secrets and overcome the root source of your sadness. My prayer is for everyone who reads this book to embrace the love of God, the love of self, and the love of others in order to live your life free of guilt or shame. Live without internal turmoil. Live with peace of mind knowing that you are already amazing and you don't have to prove it.

When I say, "Love is an inside job," I'm saying love can be experienced only from the inside. Inner love never fades, and you never have to question it. That love isn't emotional; it's spiritual. God is the source of love, and when you embrace the love of God, you are able to love yourself and then love others. It flows from the inside out.

My inability to accept love or genuinely offer it to anyone else was due to challenging and sometimes traumatic life experiences. While parts of me kept up a front, running from my past, hiding my pain, and fearing shame, my soul yearned to be free from what haunted me and to experience the elusive love I'd been searching for. I had to unpack the baggage. I had to remember, re-examine, and finally resolve the stories that had been weighing me down. Dealing with the experiences that created my life-limiting beliefs was an inside job. My healing work was long overdue. In this book I am sharing my journey, my story, as an invitation to take a serious look at yours. I invite you to get to the source of your life-limiting beliefs, doubts, fears, and negative views you harbor about yourself. Unapologetically begin to love every aspect of the amazing person that you were created to be.

All thy heart, all thy soul, all thy mind meant going all-in with God; it meant being vulnerable with God, and only that vulnerability produced self-love. There is no way to truly love people without first loving self and no way to truly love self without God, Who is the source of love. The love of God leads to the love of self and results in the love of others:

Love of God > Self-Love > Love of Others

I tend to be a giving and generous person who is there for others when they are in need of support. My motives for generosity and empathy were not a genuine outflow of God's love. I donated money to help kids go to college. I volunteered to help friends with work and personal projects, told my story of overcoming childhood challenges at gatherings for teens coming out of juvenile detention, spoke at prisons to inmates who were parents, and so on. I did good in order to be loved, rather than as a genuine expression of love without a hidden agenda. I was motivated by my desire for control. I was unwilling to let go and fully let God in. And for good reason. I needed to remain in control because if I did not take things into my own hands, I would not be okay because no one was going to help me, not even God.

But finally, I got tired.

Richard Rohr calls this feeling dehydration. He names the replenishing that prevents dehydration "the feeling of full flow, vulnerability, and trust in the infilling." The willingness to let go of control and admit the desire to love and be loved can only be found through letting in the love of God first. This "inflow" of love prevents "dehydration."

My inability to embrace the inflow has led to many broken relationships. Whenever I became dehydrated, I gave up. I was empty and had nothing more to give. So many mistakes and fractured relationships have been the result of my inability to let love in. My way was "love your neighbor, then yourself." That's like turning on a faucet and having the water shoot up into your face, creating a mess.

I had to learn that the love of God, which results in the love of self and then neighbor, begins with vulnerability. It was impossible to love my neighbor as myself when I didn't know how to love myself first. I couldn't love myself without experiencing God's love, and I couldn't experience God's love for me without being vulnerable.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

Brené Brown

These words from Brené Brown's Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead were the opening quote in one of Richard's daily meditations. The thought of vulnerability frustrated me. I didn't want to be vulnerable. I was afraid of it. I believed that vulnerability led to pain.

But I was wrong. That's not always the case. When I began to explore the outcomes of my life as a result of my unwillingness to be vulnerable, I realized how much it was causing me to remain disconnected from people. Therapy helped me to start seeing the value of vulnerability and the opportunity for deeper relationships that it offers. Vulnerability is the only way to receive love and in turn extend love to others. I learned that vulnerability is the path to truly experiencing the love of God and finally love the person I am.

I had no examples of going all in with God, being vulnerable with God.

I had no examples of self-love.

I didn't even know where to start in order to give vulnerability a try. Control was my way of dealing. When I got tired, I wanted to become vulnerable, but it was not easy.

This book shares my story and process of embracing vulnerability:

Vulnerability with God > Love of God > Self-Love > Love of Others

Chapter 1

"When the Parts of Me
I Didn't Love Led a Revolt"

When you don't love all of who you are, the parts you don't love will lead a revolt.

Phil Jackson, founder and lead pastor, House Covenant Church, Chicago, Illinois

I was an urban outreach minister sitting in the church office one beautiful Sunday morning, preparing for service at this megachurch of five thousand members, when one of the deacons came running in.

"A homeless man is threatening people in the kitchen!"

He'd bypassed other congregational leaders, perhaps figuring this was a situation for the "urban outreach" minister to handle.

Rather than serving the homeless in other locations, we had started bringing displaced persons to church to worship with us and have breakfast with us, truly becoming a part of the church community. Imagine middle-class, upper-middle-class, even wealthy people, and homeless ones, all having breakfast. It was awkward at times. The homeless man was a regular in our food program, whom I now remember as Mr. Breakfast. He was a slender man, perhaps fifty years old, six feet tall, with a short scruffy beard, wearing a baseball cap and a tattered green coat and jeans. He was carrying four bags of food that smelled distinctly like bacon. When I approached him and asked, "Why are you taking food? We will give you all you can eat," he responded, "What are you talking about, Rev? I gotta feed my family."

I was responsible for pastoral care and outreach, so this wasn't my first interaction with this man. I knew him. We had been engaging him for months. Trying to keep it one hundred with him, I said, "Look, man, you don't have to lie to me. You know you don't have family."

I knew for sure he didn't have family, but he got angry: "So what are you going to do, Rev?"

I was standing there in a preacher's robe adorned with velvet crosses, hardly a year out of divinity. Mr. Breakfast and I were in view of members who were business professionals, doctors, and lawyers, entering a church that had been visited by every president who came to the city. I had been in situations like this during my teenage years but never with a homeless person, so when Mr. Breakfast squared off in front of me, I knew exactly what to do. I sat my coffee down on the ledge of a flowerbed, preparing to control what might happen.

Mr. Breakfast asked again, "What are you going to do, Rev?"

The thought did occur to me: Maybe I should pray for him, or maybe if this gets physical, I'll just turn the other cheek, and then I heard him say, "I'll slap you!"

Mr. Breakfast and I were about to fight. My actions had quickly vetoed the idea of turning the other cheek.

A short elderly man in his seventies, wearing glasses and a hat that said CHURCH SECURITY, and a group of guys from the congregation restrained me.

Mr. Breakfast was sent back to the streets. I was taken to the pastor's office and reprimanded.

"Things just got real," I explained to the senior pastor. "There was no way I could allow myself to be slapped by Mr. Breakfast, a homeless man—in church, on Sunday morning!" All of my hard-earned street credibility would be lost in an instant!

"Romal, you're wearing a robe with velvet crosses on it," he reminded me, as if I didn't realize I was still draped in the robe. "Why didn't you let church security handle it?"

"When I saw a man who looked to be in his mid-seventies walking up with his church security hat on," I told him, "my initial thought was, Great. I have to protect both of us now!"

Pastor reminded me of my work bringing the homeless into community within our church, how I'd talked about how loving our neighbors as ourselves was the underpinning of bringing the church soup kitchen into the church cafeteria. He said I couldn't love that homeless man, because I didn't know how to love myself. What was inside me was the street Romal preserving self via the way of the street, not the loved-by-God Romal who was self-loving enough to choose other ways to handle Mr. Breakfast.

The pastor sent me to anger management.

My altercation with Mr. Breakfast turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Counseling began a process of healing old wounds. What Mr. Breakfast said and did raised deep-seated inner issues in me and about my past. I was conflicted inside. The parts of me that I didn't like, parts that had led me to the urban ministry job in the first place, had resurfaced in unhealthy ways. I thought I could resolve my inner conflicts by serving in the church, praying, worshipping, leaning on my newly found, nonviolent Christian values, but the incident with Mr. Breakfast proved I needed help.

Chapter 2

The Verdict Was Therapy

A wise Senior Pastor at the church where I worked while a student in Seminary said to me, "Jorge, you're a gifted leader but your unresolved issues will destroy your life and ministry. Get help or I'll fire you." Thus began my thirty-plus-year relationship with skilled counselors who have helped me navigate through the wreckage and beauty of my life. God uses counselors and other mental health professionals to bring about His sanctifying grace in our lives.

Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor, Grace Church,
Cape Coral, Florida

Getting sent to anger management was my first shot at therapy. It felt like punishment. It came with stigmas. What will other people think of me? Yes, I was angry. Yes, places in my life were causing me pain, but nobody knew. Now I worried about what people would think. I wanted to protect the public perception of me, even if that perception wasn't true. Other people's opinions of me were more important than my own well-being. I treated my life like a Facebook post—talked only about all the good—because I wanted people to think my life was great, even though I knew for myself that wasn't true. I wasn't as happy as I looked in those pictures I posted on Facebook. I pretended to be happy, not knowing how to actually be happy.

And no, I didn't want to talk about it.

I was "doing church" just fine. If church members knew I was in therapy, they might whisper that my "spirit was not right." If they knew I was going to therapy, they might tell me, "Just read the Bible. Something must be wrong with your prayer life. Jesus will break the yoke. You just need an 'anointing.' You don't need to go to therapy." None of which would help me deal with the life events that were the source of the problem. It was not my spirit but the stories—painful childhood life events—that were the source of my anger.

I am a man. I felt I could just deal with it myself, whatever "it" was. I can carry it; I can fix it myself. As a man, I was supposed to "man up." A man stands on his own two feet, makes his own decisions. A man fixes things himself. A man, a strong man, a real man, does not go to therapy.

I first went to therapy mainly because I had to go, but there was also a part of me that wanted to feel whole. I told myself that as a man, I could decide for myself to embrace it and not care what others thought. I had given my life to Christ because I wanted peace of mind and to be happy, yet something always made me anxious and afraid. Every time I got in a good situation, my mind made things go wrong. Mr. Breakfast hadn't started the fight. My thoughts had started the fight. My mind took me back to the streets, when I was actually in a situation far removed from my past. I was trapped by who I was told I could become in the world, by my own assumptions about who I was in the world. Instead of being who I was in the present—a minister—I acted out who I had been in my past—a scared boy from the inner city who always had to fight to survive, the skinny kid who was taught to throw the first punch.

Why men don't go to therapy

The first question I had to ask myself when my pastor sentenced me to anger management was Why don't men go to therapy? I started asking my male friends about therapy and why men don't go. They told me men don't go to therapy because if you do, you are perceived by other men and women as weak, and perhaps you even think of yourself as weak. My own feelings were corroborated when they said another reason men don't go to therapy is because of the shame that comes with letting people know that something is wrong or that there are things you can't figure out or handle yourself.

As I struggled with these feelings and beliefs about therapy, this question kept popping into my head: What is the value of being strong if your definition of "being strong" results in pain because you keep breaking things, because you don't know how to change your behavior?

As a man, I have to be viewed as strong. That is what I'd been taught from the time I was a kid. I had accepted it as true. But until that pastor-mandated therapy, I never questioned the whole idea. What is real strength? What does it mean to be strong? I had been taught that being strong means that you handle things, that you deal with things on your own, that you fix things, that you figure them out, that you do not ask for help.

As I faced the prospect of going to therapy, I had to admit to myself that my idea of strength left out a lot. My uncles only taught me to be strong—a fighter—but nowhere along the way did I learn the value of empathy, compassion, affection, and love. I didn't know what empathy, compassion, affection, and love looked like coming from a strong man. Could I be a man who has the ability to be firm but also at the same time be compassionate, loving, caring, empathetic, and understanding? Would it bring into question my manhood or my strength? Deep inside, I wanted to be strong and be a man able to embrace all these aspects of myself. But I didn't know how.

I'd been taught that a man stands on his own two feet and makes his own decisions. My uncles would tell me that following anything my friends wanted to do was a sign of being a weak man. They never asked anyone for help when going through life's challenges, so I learned from their example and accepted their advice. As I faced that first prospect of therapy, I asked myself: If I'm a man who makes my own decisions, shouldn't I be able to choose therapy? If I'm a man who fixes things when they are wrong or going wrong, shouldn't I see myself as a man when I go to therapy to learn how to fix things in my life, especially when what needs to be fixed is me? Isn't deciding to go to therapy evidence that I am a man, a strong man?

Saying I could "just fix it myself" was like handling shattered glass. The hidden parts of myself were like broken pieces with sharp edges, and every time I tried to reassemble them, I cut myself. Eventually I would hurt others. Yet, as a man, I could not ask for help.

So, at first I was resistant to my pastor's order that I go to therapy, but as I began to examine myself—my real self, not the person I wanted people to think I was, who had that great "carefully filtered half-truth posted on Facebook"—I began to question what I had accepted as true about myself because of my past. I could no longer accept those old ideas of manhood as true. Accepting the belief about manhood that I inherited from my family as true had become harmful to me; they were preventing me from becoming the person I truly wanted to be. Those ideas of what it meant to be a man no longer had value to me. Those beliefs about my manhood no longer served me well. Being a man with those beliefs that I had accepted without questioning kept causing me to harm not only myself but also others.

As I became less reluctant about going to therapy, one friend said, "Man, why do you need someone else to tell you what to do?" It suggested that I was either weak or not in control. My knee-jerk reaction was to continue putting forth the image, the persona that I can handle things, that I am in control, and I will hide the reality that I can't handle things. No one has to know that on the inside I'm falling apart. But after our conversation, my questions to myself were: What is the value of maintaining a perception that isn't accurate and keeps you from becoming the person you are supposed to be? I faced the truth that the perception I'd worked so hard to maintain kept me from peace of mind and happiness. Was what I wanted people to think of me worth the price of not having joy, not having peace? Was that perception worth the price of the inner pain that I endured? Sacrificing true happiness on the altar of public perception was no longer worth the price I was paying. I was tired of carrying burdens that erupted in anger and fighting because I was so concerned with what people thought of me.

The pursuit of pleasing people with a false identity for the sake of public perception was exhausting. I finally got tired of performing and worrying about what other people will think. Some part of me cared more about having peace than maintaining the perception that I was in control. For years I pretended to be happy, pretended that I enjoyed life, but now I actually wanted to become the person I was pretending to be.

It was with great discomfort and anxiety that I let go of who I wanted people to think I was. Pastor had blown my cover. Little did I know at the time that his mandated therapy would give me tools to not only love myself but genuinely love others and feel confident in who I am.

Why black folks don't go to therapy


On Sale
Apr 3, 2018
Page Count
304 pages

Romal Tune

About the Author

Romal Tune is Senior Advisor to the President of TMS Global, while also maintaining his public relations consulting company Tune & Associates. He is a highly sought-after communicator and seminar facilitator. His platform and cross sector relationships have positioned him as a global leader who takes individuals and institutions from setbacks to success by using the power of story. Romal consistently travels throughout the year helping individuals and organizations find deeper meaning, maximize their potential, and live into their purpose by listening to their stories and living authentically.

Coming from challenging beginnings, Romal defied the odds to become an All American Collegiate Scholar, Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, and Magna Cum Laud honor graduate with a BSN from Howard University and MDIV from Duke University School of Divinity. As a military veteran who served during Gulf War Desert Storm, moving individuals from setbacks to success as leaders is something he knows full well.

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