What I’m Learning About Vulnerability

Being vulnerable is hard.

The definition of the word vulnerable is literally, ‘susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.’ Being vulnerable means stripping away our walls, our barriers, our safety nets.

Vulnerability is honesty and openness, and allowing others to see our true selves – the good and the bad. The polished pieces and the broken ones. The strengths and the weaknesses.

Understandably, that’s very difficult to do. We naturally don’t want to reveal the deepest, most intimate parts of ourselves. Often, we don’t even want to reveal some of the shallower parts either, especially if they cast light on our mistakes or shortcomings.

We rarely allow ourselves to be vulnerable. After all, we’re much more easily attacked – physically and emotionally – when we’re being so open. To some extent, it’s good to withhold deep information about ourselves until we know we can trust another person. We want and need to make sure someone else won’t take advantage of our vulnerability.

But although we’re hesitant to be vulnerable with others, I think we all want others to be vulnerable with us. Speaking for myself at least, I don’t like when others wear masks. When people pretend to be someone they’re not, or they refuse to be honest about how they’re really doing, or open about their life. I understand why they hold back – I often do the same thing after all – but it makes it difficult to truly get to know someone.

I’m still pretty young, but my desire for openness and vulnerability with others grows with every year. When I’m getting to know someone, all I want is for them to be honest with me. To be themselves. Not everyone will ‘click’, but that’s okay. Not everyone is meant to be extremely close friends with everyone else. We all have certain people. But in order to find those people, we have to be able to know who they really are.

I try my best to be someone that others can trust. And as time progresses, and that trust grows, I pray that they feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with me. It means a lot when others do the same thing for me.

Nowadays, it feels like people are more closed off than ever. Social media in particular has made it very easy to construct ‘alternate versions’ of ourselves. Whether it’s through pictures, writing, or voices, it’s often possible to portray ourselves as something completely different than we really are. I find it difficult to know who to trust.

And that’s why I think it’s so refreshing to meet someone who’s willing to be themselves. Someone who doesn’t try to hide the personality that God gave them. Someone who’s honest about their mistakes and weaknesses, and also doesn’t shy away from using the strengths and gifts that God’s blessed them with. Someone who invites others to know and be part of their story.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating this more and more. My personality does best with deep friendships. It’s difficult for me to consider someone a friend if I really don’t know much about who they are as a person. Their desires, their fears, their experiences, their thoughts…I feel most connected to someone, and really only connected to someone, when they share those aspects of themselves with me. Their trust tells me we’re really friends.

I know this varies a little depending on the person and their personality, but I still think we’re all seeking more honesty in the people around us. There’s something very refreshing and even magnetic about people who are vulnerable. We’re drawn to that openness.

Even though I appreciate when others are vulnerable with me, I still struggle with being that vulnerable myself. But I’m working on it. Over the past year or so, I’ve been making an intentional effort to open up more. To be honest about what I’m struggling with or feeling.

It doesn’t come naturally, it’s not easy, and it’s not fun, but it’s repeatedly led to deeper relationships with the people around me, and I’ve found help for issues I’m struggling with, just because I was open about them. I’ve also found I’m more empathetic as a result.

Being vulnerable ourselves also encourages others to be vulnerable. It’s inspiring – at least I think so. To see someone else opening up motivates us to do the same, to return their trust, and to allow them to know us for who we really are. I want to be that encouragement and inspiration for others, and I want others to know that they have a trustworthy friend in me.

I believe it’s even more crucial for Christians to be vulnerable. After all, we know the truth about ourselves. We are sinful people, we have weaknesses, and we make mistakes. Owning up to them, and being honest about the journeys we’ve been on is really powerful. And opening up about those hard things, also opens up the path to talk about why we’re still hopeful.

Why do we keep working at it? Why do we keep looking for the joy in life? Why do we give thanks? It takes vulnerability to talk about the truth, when it’s so often ridiculed. It takes vulnerability to bare our hearts and share our stories. It takes vulnerability to invite others into them.

But it makes such a huge difference. And I’ve found that not only do my relationships with other people fare better when I’m vulnerable, but my relationship with God grows deeper as well.

If I’m being honest about myself; who I am and what I’m learning and struggling with, I naturally want my story to be an inspiring one. I want to grow and be a better person, and overcome my weaknesses, and I need God to do that. So being more vulnerable with others also helps me draw closer to the Lord. I’m learning to trust and rely on Him more every day.

I still have a lot to learn about being vulnerable, but I’m on that journey and grateful for the lessons God is teaching me. No matter how difficult it sometimes is, I’ve not yet regretted the choice to be open, and to encourage others to be open as well. My prayer for all of us is that we’ll continue to grow in Christ-like discernment, empathy, and honesty.

What’s your opinion about vulnerability? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to let me know in the comments below.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians,
and opened wide our hearts to you. 
We are not withholding our affection from you,
but you are withholding yours from us. 
As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
(2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV)

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