Authenticity, genuineness, candor, intimacy. These are all hard things to achieve. But they don’t have to be. You might be thinking it’s not worth the risk, the effort, the shame for getting wrong, the punishment of other people’s reactions. But it’s a reality that we cannot grow and become all we can become without being vulnerable — without trusting ourselves to something, someone.
Too many of us have been burned, it’s true. Betrayal and disappointment lay the fresh stones of caution in our midst and we find it hard to trust when those softer more relational stones have been paved over.
When those stones of trust no longer show through underneath, when we’ve lost touch with them, it can feel impossible to dig up what feels right to leave right there — those stones of betrayal and disappointment.
But those stones must come up. They must be lifted with a crowbar and removed from the garden of our heart. If we don’t guard our hearts to this degree, we find our hearts harden over just like those stones.
We may get to a place in our lives when we lose hope that vulnerability really is the answer to life. We become jaded. Cynicism creeps up and becomes the easy position from which to deposit ourselves. And perhaps our jadedness doesn’t prevail over all areas of our life, but those areas of our life it does leak into become stagnant over time. It’s the contrast of Ezekiel 47:11-12 come home to bear in our own life. There is no life in jadedness, cynicism, hardness of heart.
What has been a caustic experience, if it’s not processed properly, tends to make our attitude toxic in that area of our lives. It becomes difficult from there to think in balanced ways.
And, of course, what we have not been able to process, usually because others refuse to go there with us, where others refuse to own their contribution to the mess that’s become of the relationship, makes us feel stuck.
It’s a great blessing to have experienced this at least once in our lives. This is because it gives us a special measure of empathy for those who are on the receiving end of injustice. Anyone who has been plagued with injustice has struggled to forgive, and through such a challenge that person may have overcome what it is that made them stuck. It all takes time.
When we get to a place where our bitterness only makes us bitterer, we have an option to depart from it. This is when vulnerability peers through the window and catches our attention.
Having cycled through the cycle of hurt, we come to recognise it leads nowhere good.
Truly. Vulnerability, waiting for us to say yes, just pauses. Vulnerability causes us to venture on a journey with someone. It invites us to open up and to trust again. It comes a little easier when we feel safe, where we’re not judged, where we can get it wrong and not be condemned.
Through vulnerability healing can occur. Not overnight. But it’s a journey that will have its fulfilment. Vulnerability is the chief reason why we need safety in our lives. If we don’t feel safe, we cannot be vulnerable.
Our quest therefore is to find safe people with which to process our hurts, to help us by their listening, by being empathetic without taking sides. Perhaps the first thing we can say is, “I’m feeling vulnerable about sharing this, and I want you to assure me that if I do so, I’ll be safe.” Then take it from there.