The Beauty of Vulnerability
Vulnerability: it’s a word that has recently become a regular tenant in my crazy mind. Ironically however, had this word been a tenant in my childhood mind, its definition would have been dramatically different. When I was younger the word vulnerable almost always implied physical vulnerability--such as being left by my amazing (and perhaps somewhat pre-occupied) siblings at the Frisbee field, or heaven forbid being caught in a current on the shores of Costa Rica.
Fast forward years later and the word vulnerability now represents my journey towards authenticity and relinquishing control over presenting a perfect image to the world. And while its connotations are now more positive, the word vulnerability still imprints fear into my heart--fear because I don't want to give up my deep-rooted methods of control and comfort. But despite the unfortunate reality that I often fear vulnerability, today (and everyday) I'm purposing to reflect on the positive and growing effects of being vulnerable.
Why I (we) fear vulnerability...
The fear of being wrong:
If you’re anything like me then you may have fallen into the trap of believing that being vulnerable (and essentially offering a tender piece of your story for someone to see), is actually a sign of weakness. Because after all, in our incredibly individualistic culture, it can feel like there is a constant and relentless power struggle between far too many individuals to paint a perfect personal image with a delicate dash of self-confidence. Unfortunately however, one can quickly see by turning their attention to our current Presidential candidates, (and countless others for that matter) in our 21st century society who directly correlate power, strength and confidence with being perceived as RIGHT.
And so here many of us (or quite possibly just me) stand: consequently conditioned to believe that vulnerability, (which essentially means admitting your weaknesses and therefore where you are NOT right), is destined to leave us in last place.
The fear of rejection or ridicule:
Being vulnerable often requires us be real, and our previously negative interactions can often condition us to fear that what will result from our vulnerability will be isolation and/or judgment from others. Personally my biggest challenge is questioning whether or not my problems are valid? And if you're like me then maybe you also find yourself questioning over and over again if your fears and deepest struggles will be either laughed at, or even worse: dismissed as irrational?!
Why I (WE) should practice vulnerability more often...
I (WE ALL) have a void:
Here’s the truth: because we are naturally sinners, we each have a void in our hearts. A void that as Christians we try to fill with God’s unconditional love and truth, but a void that nevertheless is often filled by other means such as addiction, control, abuse, (and the list goes on).
Our search for fulfillment through measures aside from God's love can be relentless. As fallen creatures, we desperately search for peace, security and purpose through something or someone else. And as a result of looking away from a perfect Creator to an inherently imperfect and fallen world to replenish our hearts’ void, we are never truly fulfilled.
But guess what I have found is so incredibly comforting? Every perfectly and wonderfully created person, (AND YES I MEAN EVERYONE), has a void in their heart that they are trying to fill. And for that same reason, the magnificence of vulnerability is that we can bond with other individuals over our natural search for fulfillment and encourage each other to search for fulfillment in our Creator rather than creation.
Real talk: imagine if girls put a HALT on competition and began being honest: “Oh you struggle with self-worth and look to guys? No way, I struggle with that too--except I obsess over toning my body and eating healthy.”
Okay, okay- maybe that conversation wouldn’t actually sound like that, but you get the general picture right? RIGHT.
Being vulnerable breaks my (OUR) often false stereotypes:
Any basic Psychology 101 course will probably teach you that creating stereotypes allows us to process the vast variety of information and individuals that we encounter every second of our day. And for the most part, stereotyping can be an expedient way to categorize individuals. However, STEREOTYPES ARE DANGEROUS.
Why are they dangerous? They are incredibly dangerous not only because stereotypes are constructed by our fallen society and are therefore inherently susceptible to being false, but also because stereotypes often separate certain individuals and consequently diminish our universal similarities.
But rather than resenting our immediate tendency to associate certain individuals with previously formed stereotypes, vulnerability allows us to combat our tendency because when we relinquish our hidden and unique struggles to those we trust, we break false stereotypes and see each other for who we really are-- in contrast to who our society categorizes us to be.
Learning how to be vulnerable teaches me (US) how to trust God's guidance:
And while I can first admit that the trust factor in vulnerability can be difficult to navigate, I can also freely admit that God has the ability to open our eyes to the right time, speed and individuals to accompany our quest for being more vulnerable.
If you’re anything like me then perhaps you hide behind the trust factor of vulnerability too often. Perhaps like me, you diminish vulnerability’s unique bonding ability by constantly labeling a situation or person as not trust-worthy when in reality I am simply terrified of being labeled as A HOT MESS.
But I am finding out over and over again that while there is wisdom is protecting ourselves from unnecessary ridicule, or revealing our deepest struggles to a evidently untrustworthy individual, there is ALSO so much growth and bonding that comes from being even SLIGHTLY vulnerable with individuals. Because that vulnerability permits us to observe the often remarkable personal connection that arises after we let our perfectly secure guard down.
Vulnerability allows me (US) to relate and love God’s people in a deeper and more intimate manner:
Being vulnerable is a unique opportunity to relate and love someone on a more intimate level. It’s a beautiful gateway to sharing God’s work in our life. For example, when I can get over my obsession with painting a perfect picture of my life to others, I can share how God has worked through my depression, anxiety and control to lead me closer to Him. Being vulnerable also allows individuals to bare each other's burdens and therefore love each other in a more Christ like manner.
Vulnerability can often be a beautiful outlet for friendship:
Vulnerability often creates an Eureka moment between two individuals. Something magical happens when one person, through much prayer and trust, let’s their tightly sealed guard down through prayer, only to step back and watch other people respond in pure amazement and relief. Because after one person swallows their pride and opens up to another person, it is not rare that same recipient will enter into complete amazement that someone shares in their same struggles, and also relief that they now have a companion to relate to.
And if you haven’t already seen what I call the "Eureka: vulnerability style," I promise you that some of the most amazing and lasting friendships are birthed and deepened through being vulnerable.