No one wakes up in the morning and thinks “You know what I want to do today? Be incredibly vulnerable!”. It’s not exactly the top, desirable priority in anyone’s life, and yet time and time again we see how important it is. At some point in your life, you’ll have to open up with someone about what’s going on and deal with whatever hardship that’s becoming too great for you to handle all alone. But this post is not about the value of being vulnerable with those who care about you. This post is about some of the harsher realities of vulnerability that may keep you holding back from engaging.
1. It’s going to hurt. Maybe even worse than the thing you’re being vulnerable about.
Vulnerability is downright painful. There’s no easy way around it. That’s probably the reason we’re so reluctant to engage in it in the first place. It hurts. There’s nothing pleasant about openly admitting something that’s already plaguing you. What we would hope to feel like a soothing balm actually feels a great deal more like pouring hand sanitizer into an open wound.
The thing we absolutely have to remember is that just because it hurts to be vulnerable doesn’t mean the process isn’t good for us or isn’t yielding fruit. It is. The pain we feel for being vulnerable is just a last obstacle between us and the positive actions that can actually work on addressing the problem.
I’m reminded of a scene from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in which Eustace is describing his transformation back into a human boy. He tells Edmund about the agony of the process, the pain of the cuts, but compares it to picking off a scab. “You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away”
Vulnerability is going to hurt, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
2. You aren’t the first person to feel this way and you won’t be the last
To show vulnerability is to admit to a weakness or a struggle. It’s to say “I don’t have this all together. I’m not all that and a bag of chips”. To say that in a world that currently thrives on portraying an Instagram perfect life is nothing short of terrifying.
If you’re anything like me, the biggest struggle is not the moment of vulnerability itself, but everything immediately after. Good gravy, it’s the absolute worst. The second I’ve finished talking to someone about what I’m struggling with, even if I feel loads better for having talked about it, I want to take it all back. I want to yell “Just kidding!” and go back to pretending everything is just fine and that there’s nothing to see here.
Why do I do this? Because it’s incredibly easy to feel like I’m the only person struggling this much, the first person to gum it up this badly, the only one who can’t handle it on their own, or -in a worst-case scenario- doomed to forever be viewed differently by others. Not a single one of these thoughts are founded in any truth. Not a one. And yet, there they are, every time without fail. They’re all spoken in an enemy voice that revels in the fact that you’re struggling.
You can not listen to that enemy voice.
It will cripple you. It will tell you as many lies as it can think of to convince you that being vulnerable was a mistake and that you should never be vulnerable again. It will do that to keep you there and keep you down. If you stay down and struggling, there’s so much less you can do, so of course, that enemy voice wants you to keep your struggle to yourself. Don’t let that enemy win.
3. God can tend to use your vulnerability more than he uses your personal strength
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve tried to convince God to let me do things by my own strength and it hasn’t worked out…The truth of the matter is that what we perceive as our strength is usually more of a stumbling block between our egos and God’s plan. I’m not saying we need to be these complete weaklings if we want to honor God, just that over time we’ve seen to distort our image of strength. Maybe the biggest strength we can have is being willing to examine where our strength ends. Because the truth of the matter is, our vulnerability can be extraordinarily useful in the kingdom of God.
It’s been my experience that people are much more inspired and encouraged by stories of overcoming than stories of success and happiness without ever having gone through anything. No one wants to trust the opinion of someone who has no idea what they’re going through, no matter how well-meaning the effort is. It just doesn’t do anything to help. Whereas someone who comes alongside you (who you know for a fact has first-hand experience with your trial) and offers to guide you from their own experience. Theirs is the authority you’re much more likely to trust and learn from.
The thing is, you would never know that person to be a resource if they hadn’t the courage to be vulnerable and admit that they had the same struggle. You would have passed them by without ever knowing that they could come alongside you through your own trial. If you want to help other people in their struggles, you have to understand that vulnerability is going to play a crucial role in that endeavor. Your story can be used, but it can only be used if you’re willing to have it told.
At the end of the day, no one likes being vulnerable, but it’s an absolute necessity in our lives. If we don’t want to stay bound to our struggles and want to use them to help others who come after us, then we have to open up about what’s happened or is happening to us.
Let's find some joy,