Romal Tune: What Happens When Men Heal?

Watch the Interview

Read the Interview

Romal Tune

             Romal Tune

Yes, Tune is my real name and no, I can’t sing! My last name is (Tune) but that is about as close as I get to holding a note, lol. I am a father, an author, a veteran, a world traveler, art collector and the founder of ClereStory Education Fund. The focus of my life’s work is using the power of storytelling to bring about meaningful change. I teach individuals, non-profits and companies how to tap into the uniqueness of their stories and experience exponential growth. Everything begins and ends with the stories you are accepting as true about who and what you can become. These stories guide your thoughts and actions. I also teach organizations how to create a narrative that guides their work in order to accomplish goals and achieve their vision. The right story helps team members thrive in a healthy work culture.


Hugh Ballou: Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. Russell, welcome.

Russell Dennis: Greetings. Happy Tuesday.

Hugh: Russell David Dennis, co-host every week. We broadcast live on Tuesdays at 2 pm on Facebook. We record for the podcast, which you can find on iTunes or anywhere you find podcasts.

Oh my goodness, I heard this guy last Saturday. It was amazing. He was a keynote speaker at the Methodist Conference in Virginia. It was a whole conference about race, diversity, and how to rethink how we relate to each other. I was so impressed with him that I called him up and asked him to be on the podcast. He said yes. Here we are. Romal Tune, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Romal Tune: Thanks for having me on. It’s good to be with you guys.

Hugh: Did I say your name right?

Romal: You did.

Hugh: It has a really neat ring to it, Romal. We don’t make a practice of reading long, boring introductions. We like for our guests to introduce themselves. Tell us about yourself, your background, what’s brought you here, basically your story. What’s your passion?

Romal: My passion is I am a storyteller. I love to tell stories of redemption. That comes out of my own life experiences growing up in northern California in the bay area. I lived in San Francisco and throughout the bay area. Inner city kid. Life challenges. Mom was a substance abuser and had some challenges with alcohol and addiction. But that wasn’t her whole story. Prior to that, she worked in the world of banking. Oddly enough, her success led her into addiction. We lost everything by the time I was in middle school. Went to live with my grandparents. At the age of 16, I moved to New Jersey and lived with my dad until I graduated high school. Signed up in the army. Desert Storm ’88-’92. Accepted to Howard University. Went to Howard from ’92-’96. Plan was to go to medical school. After I graduated from Howard, I was preparing to take the MCAT and working as a clinical research associate on phase 3 pharmaceutical studies.

Working in a church. Volunteering and teaching some Bible studies. Didn’t grow up in the church. I ended up in the church simply because I had a girlfriend who went to church. She said, “If you want to be with me, you have to go to church.” I said, “Okay, praise the Lord, whatever it takes.” Had a passion for it. Realized one day sitting at my desk at a pharmaceutical company, phase 3 studies, I had a Bible study lesson and realized I loved the teaching and I probably would have been a really good doctor, but I wanted to go into ministry. I went to Duke University for graduate school and got a degree in religion. Never really worked in a church full-time.

About 12 years ago, I started my own consulting company doing strategy and public relations in a variety of settings from corporate to large nonprofits, political campaigns, doing strategy and faith community strategy. Wrote a book four years ago. That book told my story of my journeys and challenges in the inner city and how I overcame them.

Most recently, I wrote another book entitled Love is an Inside Job: Getting Vulnerable with God. There it is, Hugh is holding it up. That book is really about a journey of a life of fulfillment through the lens of therapy and faith. It deals with vulnerability. I always tell people, if you know Brene Brown, I am Brother Brown. I talk about my journey and the journeys of others that have had to overcome life challenges to find a deeper sense of meaning, fulfillment, and the very real way, peace of mind that is rooted and healing in your story, having a clearer sense of who you really are in the world, and letting everything flow from the inside out so that your success is actually an outward expression of internal wholeness rather than expecting those things outside of you to make you feel whole. I learned the hard way that it doesn’t work. Everything flows from the inside out.

Hugh: That is amazing. You studied with Will Willimon at Duke, didn’t you?

Romal: I did have a class with Will Willimon, yes.

Hugh: He has been a guest on this podcast. As you might imagine, he had some profound things to say. You had an amazing story about writing a letter to Richard Rohr, who is quite the influencer. He gave you time and spent the day with you. Is that right?

Romal: This was even before I knew I was going to have a book coming out. I did not have a book deal at the time. I came across a friend on social media who posted a Rohr quote about daily meditations. It was powerful. I started following him, getting those meditations via email every night. Some friends were planning a retreat with Richard. I didn’t know him. They were asking me for some advice around strategy. I said, “Here is the deal. I will help you with strategy free of charge if you somehow connect me with Richard Rohr. I am a big fan. I have been reading his books. I get his meditations.” They couldn’t guarantee it. He had been ill at the time, battling prostate cancer. They introduced me to his executive director via email. I wrote a letter. He gave it to Richard. Literally, I would say two days before Christmas, Richard Rohr emailed me himself and said, “Hey, I am recovering from prostate cancer. I am feeling better. I have been reading the letters. Yours is the first one I read. We can do a call if that’s what you’d like, or if you have time, you can come and I will spend the day with you here in New Mexico.” I did that. I booked the ticket. We identified a day, and I spent a full day from 9 in the morning until about 8 at night just hanging out with Richard Rohr, asking questions. He asked me a lot of questions. Oddly enough, some of his questions were specifically around race, and mine were around meditation and understanding my story through the lens of healing and redemption. We started building a friendship. We stay in touch quite regularly.

When Love is an Inside Job was ready to come out, I asked him to write an endorsement, so you will see it in the book. Bob Goff is in there and Parker Palmer. People I have been fortunate enough to meet along the way.

Hugh: Richard Rohr says, “This book fully engages you from the very first page with deep humanity, dear honesty, and yes, vulnerability.” Having that kind of quote from Richard Rohr is a big deal. If people listening to this podcast don’t know the name Richard Rohr, he is a person who will help you shift your paradigm and rethink your basic tenets of faith and your journey will be empowered in a very different way.

Romal, I will help you with your strategy if you will introduce me to Richard Rohr.

Romal: Deal.

Hugh: My wife couldn’t put this book down. It’s on my queue. I have two ahead of it.

Romal: I don’t know who those other two books are.

Hugh: They are other friends. I do have a lot of author friends. I have already read it because she reads it to me. She is not reading anything else. She is finishing your book. It is profound.

We talked about Richard Rohr shifting the paradigm. When I heard you speak, you were on for two and a half hours.

Romal: Two hours you had to endure me talking.

Hugh: It went by fast. It went by fast.

Romal: That’s called a nap, Hugh.

Hugh: I took notes. You helped us look at things in a different light. Go backwards a little bit. You pivoted, when your girlfriend said, “If you want to see me, you have to go to church.” You studied for Bible study. You were digging into the scripture. You didn’t grow up with this tradition. In a way, you have a way of seeing this in a very fresh light. What was the biggest pivot for you to go from where you were to where you are?

Romal: There have been multiple shifts and pivots along the way. I think the first was with church, it gave me the first opportunity to shift my narrative and find a new way of being in the world. Much of my story and my identity in terms of who I believed I could become in the world, my capabilities, were shaped by my experiences growing up in a very challenging environment, which created some self-doubt, some insecurities, some uncertainty about the direction of life. Becoming a follower of Jesus in the context of a Christian community gave me some other people to be around to look at how different their lives were from mine and how their faith played a role in their lives. I was able to then look at how might my faith propel me in different directions and shape a new narrative for me? That was the first pivot.

For many people, when they come into the church like I did, you not only begin to have a deeper relationship with God and your faith, but you also at the same time are learning how to do church. It’s like even in the workplace, you go in, you are selected for a specific task, but you are also learning the culture of that environment and what it looks like to succeed there. In the church world, you are also learning what it is like to succeed in church, to be okay there, where to sit, where not to sit, what things you can do, what things you can’t do, how to schedule a meeting room and the politics of space. I learned how to do church in the midst of growing my faith and then realized that in that process, I was also needing to suppress a part of my identity in terms of my upbringing and challenges I faced that were not welcomed in the church, at least the kind of church I was in. It was more based on who you are now rather than the story that brought you here. Those things play out in the workplace, too. We are oftentimes conditioned to leave certain parts of us at home so that we can function at a high level, at least at what we think is a high level in that context, not realizing the only way to truly function at a high level is to bring all of you into context, in the workplace or in the church, because nothing is wasted. There is wisdom in your story.

The next pivot was actually withdrawing from church. There is a chapter in the book where it says in order to save my faith, I had to lose my religion. To draw closer to God required retracting from the things that I thought were the structured boundaries of who God could and could not be for me, which were some of the social norms of church rather than the actual Biblical narrative of how God uses all of your story and can redeem it. There is power in your broken places that can help heal others. Spending that time alone with friends who were of the faith, who were still in church, I was able to redefine myself based on a deeper relationship with God that had more room than the walls of the church.

The next iteration is what I call the altar call, the return back to the community within the context of the congregation. But now bringing all of me into that context.

Hugh: Wow. We are speaking to leaders out there who are running what we reframe the popular name is “nonprofit.” We are the only industry in the world who defines ourselves by what we are not. We are really a social profit. We are a social benefit. We are a tax-exempt charity. We are a business that has special rules and provides impact for people’s lives. Lots of things that we are. I experience a whole lot of leaders that define themselves by the damage of their past. They’re limited because of their family heritage. You met my wife, Leigh Anne Taylor. Just before you left, she got a stack of your books.

Romal: Thank her again.

Hugh: They will be put to good use, I’m sure. We have been studying the work of Murray Bowen. It’s learning about our family of origin, but it’s not to blame. It’s to understand ourselves. When I listen to you talk about your story, it’s been a remarkable pivot for you not being bound by the past. James Allen wrote this book years ago called As a Man Thinketh. In there, reframing the language, he said people want to change their circumstances but are unwilling to change themselves. They therefore remain bound. I am tracking this as vulnerability. Brene Brown has been out there and visible. In my world of conducting, James Jordan has a book out called The Musician’s Soul. He says you cannot make effective music on a podium until you can be vulnerable as a leader in front of that ensemble.

What thought do you have for leaders breaking through some of those limits, those impressions of the past, to become vulnerable? How will that benefit their leadership?

Romal: First, with your statement around nonprofits, as a friend of mine likes to say, instead of nonprofits, how about we use language like “for-purpose?” It is far more empowering. Your for-purpose organization.

When it comes to leaders in the nonprofit sector, presidents and executive leadership teams, and even corporate in the same way, everyone has a story. Obviously, my journey is not like yours. But we all have stories that have shaped our lives. People tend to stay away from the wounded places because they still hurt, not realizing that by revisiting those stories that are sometimes uncomfortable, there is a way to look at them to see how they have shaped you and continue to show up in your thinking, your behavior, your beliefs, your interactions, so that you can take back from that past experience what it took from you, the confidence, the certainty, the self-awareness. Those experiences are part of your life, but they don’t get to define the rest of your life. When you do the work as a leader, what you are in essence doing is turning a wound into a scar. The scar is the evidence of healing. People don’t like dealing with their wounded places, and we don’t like them to do it either because when you are wounded, you bleed all over people. That is not helpful. But a scar is evidence of healing. That scar, when you do the work, gives you a deeper sense of empathy as a leader with the people you are engaging. It’s not in a sense just the work of getting people to perform a task, but it’s being able to empathize with their experience, their journey, their feelings in a way that allows you to connect such that they want to be a part of your team and want to be guided and led by you because you understand them as a person. You do not see them simply as a person who performs a task or makes a product.

Vulnerability for the leader is not a sign of weakness. Vulnerability requires courage, transparency, and authenticity. As a leader, when you think about the great leaders of our generations, they have been vulnerable in a way that they have been able to articulate a story about themselves and others that people can see themselves as part of a deeper narrative, a bigger vision. You cannot cultivate deep vision without vulnerability. Why? Because vulnerability says that I cannot do it myself. I am not capable. I am finite. I need to surrender my understandings of who I am to something bigger than me. That requires vulnerability to admit that this requires more than me. I need you to get this done. There is a place we can go together, but I need you to help create that vision. That requires some vulnerability and some empathy.

Hugh: Oh my goodness. Russell, you see why I love this guy. He just has great stuff to share. What are you thinking over there in Denver?

Russell: There are a lot of things in there. A lot of problems that we have today hinge on this notion of separation. We think we are separate from each other. We are separate from God. We are out there on this island by ourselves. This notion that whatever we manifest in our lives, we have to come up with the power to do that, is ego-based. It keeps us falling short because what we do when we are in our natural state and flow is we let things be manifested through us by being connected with that power out there, with that source. I am not the source. When I rely on the source and let the source flow through me, all sorts of remarkable things can happen. Everything starts on the inside. Our outside results are a culmination of what is going on on the inside. When you come to a place where you figure that out, it’s tough because most of us have this thing called ego. There is this investment in looking good, no matter how things may be going. It could all be going to crap, but as long as I look good… It’s a mistake and assumption to operate in that way. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to come up with everything. What a leader does is inspire vision in people and bring people along, knows exactly what he/she does not have and goes out and gets that. To build that vision and to make things come to fruition. A lot of times, there is this inner resistance. That is human; that is natural. When my inner resistance is up on anything, that is a signal to me that I want to change how I look at it.

Hugh: The vulnerability thing is key, isn’t it, Romal?

Romal: It is indeed because when we talk about vision, I think a solid, healthy leader first has a healthy vision for his/her life. You can’t take people where you haven’t been or at least are on the journey to yourself. To the whole notion of people wanting to have the appearance of life is well and things are going well, I was doing that. I was making a significant amount of money, and I could check all the boxes from education, graduate student body president, magna cum laude, all that stuff, two homes, fancy cars, able to travel. I had the appearance of a good life, but there was this internal angst that I still lacked peace of mind. That was simply because I was under the assumption that if I attained enough and purchased enough and had enough, I would eventually feel like I am enough. The problem is that that is a leaky bucket approach. The wound was internal.

In order to feel like enough, I had to believe that for myself, that nothing outside of me could produce that in me. As the book says, it was an inside job. I had to deal with those places in me that felt incomplete and deal with why did I feel like I wasn’t enough yet? What was going on with me? When I looked around me, I should have been feeling pretty awesome about myself and about life because on the surface, things looked great. I had to realize that the pursuit of success did not deliver on the promise. I thought the promise was I will have joy and happiness. Happiness was temporary. You buy a new car until the car needs to go to the shop. You buy a new house. You’re happy until some plumbing breaks. I wanted joy. I wanted a state of being that no matter what my environment and circumstances, I could say I loved my life. I was at a place where I could not make that statement honestly. I yearned for the ability to love my life no matter what. I wanted to put away the façade. That required doing the inner work. I found that in doing it, I feel lighter. I can appreciate life. I can look around me and be fully present, not only to the life I am living, but also to the people who are in it. I can sit in meetings and not just wait for my turn to speak, but be fully present and listen and ask questions and have an interest rather than just an agenda. I am free. To Russell’s point, I have everything I need, even if it is not in front of me. It is all based upon how I see life and who I believe I am in the context of the world and what is acceptable, what is available to me.

To get to that place requires vulnerability. That vulnerability leads you into humility. If you are courageous enough to be honest with yourself about who you truly desire to be in the world and ask yourself what is keeping me from becoming my best self in my lifetime, then you come to the conclusion that I am what is keeping me from that. My beliefs about myself, the parts of my story I haven’t dealt with. If I truly want to be the best version of me in my lifetime, let me be man or woman enough to let me confront those narratives and redeem what they took from me so I can live life to its fullest.

Hugh: There is a trend now of big celebrities, like Jay Z, the Rock. There is a trend for people to openly talk about vulnerability. You made the pivot. Did you have a counselor or coach or therapist, somebody that was helping you reframe things to break through to feeling comfortable? You were on stage. I was in the second row watching you. You were open and vulnerable. You were transparent. The audience could really connect with you almost immediately. Was there someone working with you? It’s hard to do it by ourselves, isn’t it?

Romal: I don’t think we are capable of doing it by ourselves. I have a therapist. In fact, this past weekend we were in South Carolina together conducting a workshop. I created a workshop based on Love is an Inside Job called Clere-Conscience: Using the Past to Heal the Present. We conducted a four-hour workshop on Saturday.

Having a therapist, someone I can talk to, as a friend of mine says, she is a doctor, her therapist calls herself her compassionate witness. Having that compassionate witness in my life that I can be fully honest with after having trusted each other where I can tell him the whole truth without shame and judgment for the sake of guidance. Therapy helps. Every great leader I have ever talked to has a therapist. I tell people, especially in the faith community who shun therapy: If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t simply say, “God knows my leg is broken. Heal my leg, God. I don’t need to go to the doctor. You’re God, and You can heal it.” That doesn’t make good sense, and you probably wouldn’t do that because you know something is required from you for that kind of healing. The same with our wounded places emotionally. We need help at times to help heal those things that we can’t heal ourselves. It requires the same level of intention to identify a professional who can walk alongside you on a journey to becoming your best self.

Hugh: The title that you suggested for this interview was men healing and how that impacts our leadership. Say a little more about what drove you to think of that title.

Romal: When we were working on the book with my publisher, my editor made the comment that this is a book about healing men, and also as a book for the women who love them, simply because the book is written through the lens of my journey as a man and learning vulnerability and empathy and what love really is and expressing that and having healthy ways of affection and love through the lens of a man who is doing the work. There are stories about women and relationships and things of that sort. I believe that in some ways, when men are able to heal our stories, our beliefs about ourselves and about other people, we can now get rid of these false paradigms of what it means to be a man.

I was just saying to a group of men over the weekend: We as men are rarely taught by the men who nurture us how to be happy. We are conditioned to be strong, stand on your own two feet, don’t cry, be a man, be strong, carry the way, endure the burdens. A man is able to endure burdens and carry the weight. That is what men do. No one ever said, “Hey, Hugh, here is what it looks like to be a happy grown man. Here is what it likes to be a man who is full of joy and peace of mind.” We didn’t get that. We were told these other things. Then what happens is you grow up, you get into a relationship with a woman, and she asks, “Tell me how you feel.” You don’t know what to do with that. “I could eat?” You got nothing. You are not conditioned to talk about how you feel. As young men, that is not how we are nurtured. We can do away with that false paradigm that men don’t have feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, and doubt. We can get rid of that. It’s okay to express those things. It doesn’t make you less of a man, nor does it make you weak. It makes you smart enough to be a healthy man. That allows you to be in healthy relationships and to engage people in a healthy way without showing up with a façade that most people know is not the real truth anyway.

Hugh: People say, “Man up, suck it up, deal with it.” We are this cement face. It’s a major journey to be a whole person. For those of us who grew up with that paradigm.

Russell, if you have a question for our guest, lay it on him. This is a good time to give him a hard question.

Russell: There is this thing called a male ego that gets us into trouble. You described some of the problems that we have. I am wondering if that narrative is starting to change. Are more men actually starting to get it? This whole Superman thing is killing him. Is the dynamic starting to shift with more men looking at it and saying, “Okay, I need to do something different because I can’t pick the world up on my shoulders here?” Do you see a movement in that direction? Do you see more change?

Romal: Yes. The thing is, no one ever asks us to hold the world on our shoulders. We assume that is what men do. Rather than we can hold everything together as people living in community to bring about change or to live healthy lives, I think that there is a movement of sorts where people are really beginning to realize that these ideas that I had about identity and even ego have not served me well. They have not delivered on the promise. Aesthetically, when I look around, I have some things. But the thing I truly desire, this happiness, this joy, this sense of wholeness and fulfillment, who I was told to be in the world has not delivered that. And I am tired. I think more men and women are realizing they are tired. This game I have been playing, this mask I have been wearing, this armor I have been carrying is heavy. I want to lay it down so I can be free and whole. I am only getting to do this life thing once, and I want to leave unempty. I want to leave having become the best version of me I could possibly be in my lifetime. I want to live a life of meaning and fulfillment. That fulfillment means if I want to be filled with the essence of who I truly am in the world and let that flow from the inside out. That is why love is an inside job. I learned to love and value me. All I can see through the lens of that self-love is the love and value of others.

Hugh: My wife bought a stack of your books. I am sure others did. There is discussion groups, especially with pastors. That is a unique position to be in. There is a lot of stress and assumptions, especially for male pastors, and women are helping change that paradigm. Another quote I like from James Allen’s book is: We don’t attract what we need; we attract what we are. Breaking through this vulnerability to this pattern of accepting our healing, it’s not a wound, it’s a scar, it’s a strength.

I want to hear two things. What are you hoping will happen when people rally around and study your book? Especially to men as leaders in the church. After you say that, what was your journey, your value? We write books for other people, but amazing things happen to us when writing the book.

Romal: There are several layers of what I hope will happen as people read the book. My desire is they find themselves in the book and begin to look at their own stories and engage in the process of doing the work to become whole themselves, to be their best selves through the lens of faith and therapy. I wanted to show that these things are not contradictions. Therapy is a way of honoring your faith.

My hope is that people will be courageous enough to embark on their own journey of healing, to begin a deeper dialogue around our sense of self-worth and identity around our stories and how our stories have shaped us and the ways that we can begin to take control of our stories and play the lead in our lives and then create a new way forward.

Next year, my plan is to have a men’s conference around emotional health and wellness with 1,000 men from across the country and host that here in Atlanta. We will be guided by breakout session and lead by therapists to deal with a whole host of issues.

My Aha moment is in chapter seven, the chapter where it says “Getting Vulnerable with God and Honest with My Dad.” In January, my dad and I have not talked for ten years since my mom passed. My mom was free and clean of drugs for several years before she died of lung cancer. My dad came to her funeral. We didn’t have a great relationship, he and I. In the course of writing the book and now being a father myself, my editor asked me to talk about the healing process and the relationship with my father. As I was writing, she sent me a note, “I can’t use any of this.” I said, “Why not?” She said, “Because it reads like you are still angry. I need you to think about the relationship you have with your own kids, the level of grace you are going to need from them, and then offer that to your dad.” I realized that I was writing from the lens of a wounded child who was 16, not a 48-year-old man who has been on a journey of healing. The wounded teenager with his disappointments and frustrations and negative memories was guiding my hand. I had to step back and reflect and say, “That is not who I am anymore. Who I am is not based on who I was then. What would I say to my dad then based on being fully present in this moment at 48, the lessons I have learned, the wisdom, the grace I will need from my own children and the grace I offer others?” I penned that chapter differently.

In real time, back in January of this year, my dad and I connected. I was speaking in Houston, and he lived 30 minutes from where I was speaking. We connected and had a great experience. I showed up not as a wounded teenager, but as a man who is on a journey of healing, who wants to be fully present and offer grace and love to people. That changed the dynamics of our interaction. That was my Aha moment. There is more on that in that chapter of Love is an Inside Job.

Hugh: Which chapter is that?

Romal: Chapter seven, “Getting Vulnerable with God and Honest with My Dad.” I write him a letter in the book.

Hugh: That’s powerful. I can’t wait to get there.

You act on your transformational thoughts. You actually transform yourself. So many people have thoughts and never do much about it. At 48, you have wisdom that far surpasses your years. You’re a no-nonsense person. What prompts you to want to ask these questions? The thread that you had through this interview is that you have listened to external advocates, external supporters, external pundits that talk to you and give you feedback. So many leaders pooh-pooh that and then don’t pay attention and don’t act on it. But you have demonstrated that this transparency and vulnerability has helped you. What is underneath that that says to you, “I am going to do something about this?”

Romal: Honestly, my own mortality. My mom passed 11 years ago. She was 53. She died of lung cancer. Ever since her death, I have had a very keen awareness of my own mortality. That guides me because I am constantly aware of I don’t know how long I get to be here. To put things off is tempting fate and time. I really want to be the best version of me in my lifetime, and I don’t know how long that is. I don’t want to waste time pretending or putting things off. When I think about the internal peace that I desire, the level of joy and happiness I desire, I don’t want to be the reason that I put that off for myself. When I think about being the best version of me in my lifetime and not knowing how long that is going to be, I can’t assume that I have time to waste. If I have time to waste, I then have to question why am I wasting it, and what am I wasting it on? There is no value in that to living my best life while I have it. I try my best to remove the gray areas. I don’t always get it right. But I offer myself grace along the way. I celebrate even the smallest victories in my life that are pushing me in the direction of wholeness. I am really compelled by that. My awareness of my humanity and my mortality. I get to do this once, and I want this journey to be amazing.

Hugh: Wow. That is so key. We have two websites listed on The Nonprofit Exchange. It’s There is a place to see your books and connect and get a book. There’s an About You and some videos there with you speaking. There is also a place they can find out about you speaking. Give us the URL for the nonprofit. Tell us what your passion was to start that.

Romal: Love is an Inside Job is available on all bookselling platforms.

My nonprofit The ClereStory Education Fund started out in my own giving just over ten years ago. The name has changed. The website is The clerestory is an architectural term. It’s the highest level of a wall containing windows that let in light. If you were ever to Google “clerestory” and look at a picture, you will typically see churches with ceilings with windows that are above eye level with light shining in. We use it as a metaphor in saying that through the ClereStory workshops, we take a high level look at your life and shine light on the stories that have shaped who you believe you are in the world. Through ClereStory, we conduct workshops on creating a healthy vision for your life.

We have one called Clere-Economics where we help you understand and value money through the lens of your story and your economic narrative and how it shaped you and how to write a new narrative. We have one called Clere-Conscience, where we deal with emotional health and wellness. Through the money that is generated from the workshops and my speaking engagements, we have a fund where we provide stipends and tuition assistance for kids from challenging circumstances who otherwise would not get a college education without the help from others, which has been a part of my story. My ability to live the life I have now is because of the generosity of strangers when I was unable to do for myself.

Hugh: That is profound. You can go to, and the video for this interview will be there, as well as the links for those two sites.

Russell, what are you thinking? Got some more questions for our guest?

Russell: We have covered a lot of things. A lot of things take place in the mind. The mind is our friend. It can be compatible with spirit. We talked a lot about doing things on an emotional and mental level. There is a spiritual component that goes into this. It’s a connection with a power greater than ourselves that can’t be defined by anybody else. It’s a personal connection. How much does that play into your work? Actual mindfulness practice, prayer, meditation, how much do those factor into the work you do?

Romal: Great questions. Prayer meditation is essential to me. The more I have learned about meditation and talking with Richard Rohr and reading and listening to different podcasts, the more I meditate- Prayer and meditation are different for me. The paradigm I learned when I got into the church for prayer is that I did all the talking and I did all the asking. Specifically, prayer was about, “Hey God, I need some stuff.” Whatever stuff was, from healing to a car. You name it. It was like, “God, can You help a brother out?” Meditation was more God doing the talking and me doing the listening.

Meditation was harder initially because I was used to doing all the talking and didn’t even know how to listen for God. The ability to meditate, be still, and deal with the thoughts that are coming in and not try to push them away but receive them and then let them go- That stillness practice has shown up in so many other ways in my life. I am more patient with life and the world and situations. I remember one time sitting in traffic and realizing I wasn’t annoyed and totally not acting like I didn’t know Christ in that traffic. I was able to be still. I was okay. I thought to myself, I have the ability to be still for 20 minutes every day. I can be still and fully present. If I break up this moment in this traffic into 20-minute increments, this is nothing. I can be present. I can reflect now. But meditation and prayer play an essential role in this journey. I talk about that in the book. Through meditation, I am able to listen for God.

I have come to a place where I am able to bring everything to God. That means my broken places. The Bible says, God will give you beauty for ashes. I am willing to bring God my ashes. I think sometimes people will say, “Well, God already knows all that painful stuff. Why do you have to say it?” Because this is a conversation. It’s a relationship. God knows. God wants to know that you are aware of yourself and you are aware of your own places that need healing. Giving the voice to it is powerful. As Brene Brown always says, the shame thrives in silence, but when you name it and give voice to it, it loses its power. In the presence of God during prayer, naming it, I am freed from the power of shame and guilt and doubt because I am able to surrender it. I have often thought that life was about fighting to achieve. What I have realized that everything I have thought I’ve had to fight for, it was never about fighting; it was about surrender. The Bible says, “The battle is not yours; it’s the Lord’s.” I get that now. So much of the fulfillment I have wanted for myself actually requires surrender. The piece I want requires surrender. The love I want requires surrender. The life that I wanted requires surrender. Prayer meditation plays an integral part. My favorite scripture, Jeremiah 29:11: I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and future. That is in fact true. God has a plan to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and the future. You don’t have to fight for that. You have to surrender to it. It’s already there for you to receive. Just say yes. Allow yourself to experience it rather than think you have to go to battle for everything. The battle is already won.

Hugh: Is your relationship with God a requirement for inner healing?

Romal: I think that whether you have a relationship with God or not, God has a relationship with you. A person not being aware of God does not mean that God is not aware of that person. God’s plan is not based on whether you are aware of God. God says I know the plan I have for you. You didn’t create yourself, so you don’t tell yourself what you were created for. In many ways, whether you know it or not, even if you don’t know it, the hand of God is still moving. God’s righteousness and purpose falls on the just and the unjust. God’s grace, right? You don’t have to be aware of it to receive grace. You don’t have to be aware of it to receive God’s love. I think you appreciate it more, you are able to express gratitude more when you are aware that it’s not you, that it’s a God who is better than you, who is directing His path.

I use a metaphor, the Duke Ellington of your life. I love jazz. The Duke was able to take all of these different instruments, and he never asked the trumpet to be the sax or the sax to be the bass. He said, “Just follow my lead. Be the best version of you that you can be. Follow my cues, and we will make something beautiful together.” I think if we follow God’s lead and just try to be ourselves and not try to be someone else, God makes some pretty beautiful things happen. When we are aware, we can celebrate that with a greater sense of gratitude. Gratitude is a path to a greater life. Yes, that healing can come whether you are aware that it’s God or not. I think there is a greater sense of joy and peace and gratitude and adoration when you realize that there is a God that loves you enough. God doesn’t remove God’s presence from everything that you have already created for.

Hugh: Whoa. That’s really good.

As we are ending this really awesome interview, Romal, what do you want to leave people with?

Romal: You asked a question. You said you are a no-nonsense person; what is behind all of this? I think what I would want to leave people with is from this moment forward, you have an opportunity to be the best version of you that you can possibly be in your lifetime. Every moment in your life is an opportunity to say yes to grace and yes to who you are truly meant to be, yes to the peace of mind, the joy, the fulfillment that is your deepest yearning, that sense of connection, that sense of value. It begins with you saying yes to it. I would leave people with that reality that everything you desire, who you desire to be, who you are meant to be, the answer is already yes. You just have to pursue it and be unapologetically and authentically you.

Hugh: Romal Tune, you’re awesome. Thank you for spending this hour with us on The Nonprofit Exchange sharing your wisdom with the world. Thank you so much.

Romal: It’s been my pleasure, Hugh. Russell, it’s been great to meet you, and I have enjoyed being here.

Russell: Always a pleasure. Many thanks. What our lives are about and the way that we become- To increase our understanding and effectiveness and to be a maximum service to people around us, it’s all about raising our level of consciousness, whatever that means to you. Raise that level of consciousness, and more things are possible.

Hugh: Thank you, folks.


Leave A Comment