Vulnerability: For Love and Risks
Everyone agrees that vulnerability is not something you do with everyone, but the one or two who have earned the right to hear your story. And everyone agrees that it is so hard, which is why we avoid it. I believe, for a multitude of reasons which are so personal and specific to each person, the two main reasons are:
a) the fear of knowing yourself
b) the power that it gives the person we are being vulnerable with
Being vulnerable, whether that’s apologising or confessing a fear, mistake or insecurity requires a level of self-reflection and it is terrifying to go into your own darkness. By sharing that with another person we’re taking a huge emotional risk by placing this sacred piece of our soul in their hand. A piece that they may not know how to handle with care. A piece they can either be compassionate and gentle with or that they can totally break into fragments if they react in disgust or rejection to our vulnerability. So vulnerability is hard because knowing my own darkness is agonising and also because taking someone deep into that darkness means they can confirm our worst fear – that we’re too dark to be loved or worthy of love. And that is a kind of pain that can leave the most damaging of scars.
But I think there is also another part that we miss which makes vulnerability seem so dangerous and uncertain.
When I take someone into that darkness and I reveal a part of me that is wounded or hurting, an unspoken level of accountability is forged. Especially if I deeply love the person with whom I’m being vulnerable with, which is normally the case, because love requires that I do whatever it takes to be the best for them. So it follows that if I am ready to share a shortcoming, I am ready to try to move away from it.
Most of the time, vulnerability in any relationship will happen when we’re apologising, trying to explain our actions to someone or trying to help them understand why we reacted in a certain way. It usually means that the very thing we’re being vulnerable about probably affects the person that we are being vulnerable to.
By sharing this with them and releasing it into the open and into the light, I can no longer say I didn’t know about my own inadequacies. I can no longer turn a blind eye or ignore it. More importantly, I can no longer hide from it because now another soul can see. I am faced with one choice – confront it, fight it and grow.
I think that’s an incredibly scary thing about vulnerability – more than the emotional exposure, it’s the place that the emotional exposure thrusts us. And where is that? A place that means we must choose to be different and change.
Vulnerability is hard because “despair is more comforting than hope.” In the pit of my own darkness I am free to languish in hopelessness and sorrow, but once I am vulnerable, whether I’m received with compassion or not, I have no excuse to remain in my tattered fig leaves rather than animal skin. The fear is that: ‘What if it takes me too long to change? What if they give up on me?’ This is when the shame creeps in and like our forefather, Adam, we want to run.
Vulnerability creates accountability and that’s a huge responsibility to shoulder.
Perhaps that’s why vulnerability can be much easier in retrospect, sharing wounds that have been and gone. Being vulnerable in the moment, being vulnerable about the very brokenness that still breaks you so well, really is the biggest risk. And here is the kicker: ‘What if, by revealing my shame or weakness, so that I may be known, I’m actually giving them the reason to walk away from me?’
Maybe this is why vulnerability feels like weakness; not just because of the exposure but because of the position of responsibility it puts us in where there is no more space for blaming others and pointing fingers. I must own the story of my weakness.
Vulnerability doesn’t guarantee anything. It isn’t a miracle in a bottle. Yes, it is ultimately a risk that can leave us naked and alone, but without it we have no connection.
So there will come a time, when we think of the past; every single time trust was offered to someone in vulnerability and was irretrievably broken, when we think of the present, the people in our life we are called to love as our own soul and when we think of the future, the kind of love we want our life to profess and we are compelled to ask: “is vulnerability worth it?”
What if staying and being vulnerable with those trusted souls in our lives breaks our plan? Everything comes at a cost, and though waters may rise and vulnerability may fail us along with those we trust, if love is the fulfillment of the law, then there is no cost that is wasted. Nothing is wasted for love – may our souls never forget to wear this God-breathed truth like second skin.
Click here to read part 1 of our vulnerability series!
Photo courtesy of Zachary Snellenberger