These words are used so often in resident life at Christian colleges that they begin to lose their meaning. We say things like “build community”, “be vulnerable and open”, and “facilitate community”.
Do we really know what we are asking for when we say these buzz words?
Vulnerability and community are incredible and beautiful aspects of belonging to a group of people. I have been blessed to be a part of a group that consistently reminds me of the value of these qualities. I’m not afraid to tell them if I’m having a bad day or I’m struggling keeping my thoughts positive.
“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
― Brené Brown
As humans, we believe that showing people our true selves—our hurts, our desires, our passions, our insecurities—reflects that we are weak. In modern society, sharing our emotions is weak, and weakness of any sort is unacceptable. We try so hard to hide the messiness of our lives behind a thin-lipped smile or stifled laugh. We play pretend.
The reality is that vulnerability requires bravery. We are not weak when we share this part of ourselves with others. The part we hide behind our façade of “I’m OK. I’m tired. I’m busy”. These are safe answers when we do not desire to share our heart with other people. They are barriers that we need to put up because we cannot share our deepest desires and darkest secrets with every random person with whom we come into contact with.
Choosing to be vulnerable is risky and scary, but so much more rewarding than I could ever imagine. It opens the door for significant conversations about real life—the triumphs, the trials, the hurts. The very definition of the word vulnerable means “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, open to assault, or difficult to depend”. When we become vulnerable with other people, we are choosing to enter into this place where we open up our hearts and lives to the point where we can get hurt. This place of unknown emotions where we share our souls with other individuals. I have been challenged this semester to be real, genuine and vulnerable with the people God has placed in my life.
My default setting is to simply assume that everyone could disappear because I have moved so many times. As a result, it is hard to be vulnerable and open with people because the more I open up, the greater the possibility of hurt.
The reality is that I can avoid getting hurt by putting up barriers, but what would I miss out on?
Deep conversations about God at 3 am.
Watching God reveal strengths in my life that others point out to me through my weakness.
Accepting that I am broken so that people can see God as he works in my life.
Sharing songs that speak to my heart with a dear friend.
Sharing my story with people who truly listen.
Reflecting God’s vision of community as we forgive and love each other in our brokenness.
As I challenge myself to be audacious, I decided to choose vulnerability.
To share my heart’s story with my closest friends. To speak the truth in love. To reveal pieces of myself in layers. To not hide behind the masks I put up to protect my heart.
The more I hide behind our masks, the more hurt I become because I feel truly alone in this big, challenging world. Sometimes, all it takes is realizing that someone else struggles with the same vices or doubts. We all have wounds. We all have hurts that cause us pain. There lies that deep-seeded loneliness that emerges in the midst of every success, the feeling of worthlessness that hides behind every accomplishment, and the meaninglessness that sneaks up on the good days which causes us to seek validation in human company, not God.
When you choose to be vulnerable, you allow people to enter into the story of God’s redemption in your life.
We do not feel so alone.
The Christian walk is not one that we can do by ourselves. We need to be surrounded by people who encourage us in our journey, who move us closer to God, and challenge us to keep trusting in God’s timing.
Vulnerability is a choice that is make every day as I choose to take off my mask and simply be a broken person loving broken people.