Why Broken Lampshades Are the Best Gift This Holiday Season

Lampshades can emit tremendous beauty. Even broken ones. Maybe we’re all like broken lampshades, and maybe we don’t need to wait to be fixed in order to be beautiful…


Every therapy office has a waiting room. Waiting rooms are an important part of the therapeutic experience—they contain those rare moments of peace and quiet before entering the psychotherapy room. Moments of decision, when we decide what parts of our story we will share with the person we have chosen to trust.

But I wonder if sometimes the waiting doesn’t end in the waiting room.

We enter into the therapy room and immediately begin a waiting of a different kind. Waiting to be fixed. Waiting to be cured. Waiting to be repaired. Waiting as passive recipients of a remedy—a word or an experience that will leave us finally feeling whole. We have put our lives on hold until we feel, finally, perfectly put together. We wait to truly begin our lives. We are waiting until we feel properly fit for purpose and meaning.

I think this happens in psychotherapy offices all the time.

But I wonder if we also wait like this in our hearts and homes and neighborhoods and nations and in our world.

Advent—the liturgical season leading up to Christmas—is meant to be a season of waiting, but I wonder if we’re all waiting for the wrong thing. I wonder if we are all waiting until we feel like we have it all together—afraid to really put ourselves out into the world while we still feel so cracked and broken.


I have three lamps in my office. Each of them has a lampshade the color and texture of old parchment paper. They emit a warm, even glow and people who peak into my office on a dark winter afternoon will often remark on the sense of peacefulness evoked by the lamplight.

My lamps create beauty.

And they appear to be pristine themselves—perfect, whole, untarnished, classy. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: they’re all broken. The lampshade on my desk is marred by water stains, which are rendered invisible when the light is turned on. The lampshade on my side table has a gash across the back of it. And the shade on my newest lamp—the floor lamp—was torn in assembly before I even had a chance to turn it on.

My lampshades are stained and ripped and torn. My lamps are a mess.

And they are beautiful.


We’re all ripped lampshades.

We’re all stained by life, ripped by experience, and torn by pain. But there is good news: we don’t need to wait to be beautiful. We don’t need to wait to be fixed or cured or somehow redeemed in order to be an inviting light in this world.

On U2’s most recent album, Bono sings: “You don’t know how beautiful you are. You don’t know, and you don’t get it, do ya? You don’t know how beautiful you are.”

Perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves this holiday season is to know that we are all broken lampshades. Broken people. Stained, ripped, torn and beautiful people. If we could cling to the grace of this, perhaps we would step out of the waiting rooms of our lives and step courageously into this world—into marriage and parenting and friendship and into quiet moments in which we keep only our own company.

Maybe we would discover that our rips and tears are like a prism, reflecting the light within us in unique and beautiful ways. Maybe in this discovery we would become a gift given to others, as well. Broken and beautiful givers of light, inviting others into the peaceful glow of the light we cast.

Let’s be ripped and torn together this season. And let’s know precisely how beautiful we are.

Posted in

Order Now


In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

Connect with Kelly

About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.