The risk of vulnerability is not an easy risk to take. Being vulnerable means sharing a piece of yourself with someone else, or a group of people, that they may not know about. It can take on different forms… an emotion expressed, a spoken thought, an action taken, an experience shared, or even a look given. When we are vulnerable, we are allowing someone to see a new side us, and that can be scary.
I think the risk factor is largely centered around the fact that we don’t know how the other person will respond. Our vulnerability can be accompanied with a feeling of fear, shame, guilt, failure, insecurity, uncertainty, or something else of great depth such as love, hope, calling, or desire. Sharing that with someone invites the question, “How will they respond?”.
Will our moments of vulnerability be met with understanding, care, reciprocation, love, support….? Or, will our moments of vulnerability be met with judgement, disagreement, or a complete inability to relate or react in a healthy way?
Yes, there is great risk in being vulnerable. We risk our reputation… what people think of us, what people know about us.
And yet, I think of how often we try to live such shiny, perfect lives, that nobody can relate to us. We tend to put up walls that protect the most truthful… the most sacred… parts of who we are for the sake of maintaining a clean reputation. We think that if people see us as good, healthy, and happy that we will be seen as valuable or as someone people would want to be around.
So great, you’re seen as good, healthy, and happy. How does that make the person feel who has made mistakes? How does that make the person feel who is struggling with healthy decisions? What about the person who is depressed, alone, and in need of a friend who can relate?
While a reputation of being good, healthy, and happy can be something admirable to aim for, I think there is a tragic loss when there are missing pieces in our story that we aren’t willing to invite people into. Those missing pieces are often the ones that tell the story of how God is healing, redeeming, restoring, or repurposing us for something greater. So if we aren’t inviting people into our full story, are we also neglecting the God piece in all of this?
I’ve been trying to step out and take more risk in the ways I allow myself to be vulnerable, and the reward of taking those risks has been incredible. It’s felt slightly terrifying at times to share things I’ve experienced in the past, and even more terrifying to admit things I’m experiencing in the present. But little by little, I’ve seen progress in myself.
The first step for me was getting back to the basics. I needed a reminder that my identity (a.k.a. “reputation”) should not be dependent on man. My identity is in Christ, and it is only his opinion or perception of me that matters. What is great is that I already know what those things are. I know that I am loved, I am valued, I am forgiven, I am gifted, I am unique, I am chosen, I am called, I am free, I am beautiful, I am capable, and I am HIS.
Nothing else matters. When you strip everything else away and leave yourself with the truths God has placed over your life, suddenly your fears of sharing your true self with others become far less significant. Vulnerability starts to become something you aim for, not something you shy away from.
Lately, as I’ve admitted difficult truths to people in my life, I have started to see a pattern. I have had people pull me aside and say that they can relate…. or that they were touched by my story…. or that I am brave…. or that they can see God working…. or that they felt understood…. or that they feel like they know me better…. or they were inspired. Those reflections have often been followed up by getting to hear pieces of THEIR story, and wow what a privilege it is to be invited into someone’s story! While I entered into those moments of vulnerability simply hoping to be a more honest and true person to those around me, I have left them seeing relationships grow deeper.
So that is the great, so-crazy-worth-it reward we get from being vulnerable. We get to be known and we get to know others more authentically. We get to experience what our hearts long for…. what we were MADE for…. and that is greater intimacy with Christ and with each other. We get to let go of what people think and get surprised by how people react. I think you’ll find most of the time people will appreciate, cherish, and value those vulnerable moments.
It’s a muscle we need to exercise, and you can always start small. Maybe it’s offering up an opinion you may have kept to yourself before. Maybe it’s allowing yourself to cry, even to just cry alone. Maybe it’s sharing a more difficult piece of your story with a close friend you trust.
Being vulnerable doesn’t have to mean you suddenly are letting everybody into every piece of your life…. but it does mean choosing to remain truthful to who you are, even if that means speaking or acting in ways that may change people’s perception of you, for better or for worse. The only way we can experience the reward is by taking the risk.
Vulnerability breeds authenticity, and I think that is an admirable thing to strive for. I’d like to invite you to join me in taking the risk of vulnerability so that we can experience the reward of depth and intimacy. Let’s let go of what people think and step into the truth of who we are in Christ. Let’s place value in going to the hard places with one another. Let’s respond to people as we would want to be responded to in moments of vulnerability.