Thursday, May 12, 2011
The Gift of Being Vulnerable
"This is really hard for me to talk about," my Bible study leader said of a particularly deep and painful struggle. "But I want you girls to feel comfortable being vulnerable with me and each other. So of course that means I have to be vulnerable with you."
The girls in that college study and I have known each other deeply for two years now. We've shared so much. But that night, more tears spilled. More secrets were confessed. Struggles and heartache, suicide and body image - we covered a lot that night, when we felt again the freedom to be real and vulnerable. It was a healing place to be.
Vulnerability is scary. Getting past the chitchat and small talk to the how are you really? - and then honestly answering that question ("Well, I feel like my heart just got run over by a truck, but thanks for asking!") - there's no denying that's scary.
We're people pleasers. We want to be accepted, liked. We try to put on a facade to match everyone else, so no one notices our weirdness. We're supposed to be happy and put together and do everything perfectly, right?
Wrong. Because in each of our hearts, there is struggle and heartache that are crying out to be shared. No one has it put together. But if we keep the mask of perfection on - everyone thinks they're the only one who is struggling. The blessing of being loved, supported, and understood is never given or received.
Vulnerability is the strength to tear off your mask and allow people to see the real you, to allow people into your life and show them what's really going on. It takes tremendous courage and strength.
And sometimes, it works out beautifully. My study leader's strength in being vulnerable had a healing domino-effect on us: we opened up, told things we hadn't planned on sharing, and were welcomed and understood.
And sometimes, exposing our real selves leaves us rejected and shamed. The girl you so desperately want to connect with looks at you like there's something horrible and wrong with you. Someone else leaves you instead of offering the support you need.
What do you do with those experiences - or the fear of them?
"The important thing about vulnerable strength is not the response you meet when you risk your heart," Paula Rinehart writes in Strong Women, Soft Hearts. "For a long time, how others receive you does seem like the big deal...but real success is measured only by the courage it takes to do and say what needs to be done or said."
Run to God, and know that, whatever the response, sharing your heart (with a trusted person - not just any random person on the street, of course) was the right thing to do. Don't allow that rejection to build walls around your heart, and make it harder for you to offer yourself and your strength to another person - who may desperately need the freedom to be her real self, too.
True relationships and fellowship are built in the real conversations, in the sharing of hearts and lives. Will you open yourself up to others, and give them the grace to be vulnerable with you?