Thursday, May 23, 2013

Risking Vulnerability

Why are we so afraid of vulnerability?

What causes us so much fear when we feel vulnerable?

In a book I was reading recently, the author made mention that while we have become masters at other things, “we are scared to death of the intimately personal.” (Mark Steele, Christianish). Those words jumped off the page at me.

A little bit later in the same chapter of the book, the author is talking about someone overcoming a fear of heights, and comments that, “we may not have a phobia about heights, but we certainly have one about depth.” (Mark Steele, Christianish). Reading similar words a second time stuck in my head.

I’ve been thinking about it since.

Why do we have this fear of things that seem personal? That make us feel vulnerable to share them with others?

If this fear logical? Is it how we should be feeling? Or should the way we operate look different that being afraid to be vulnerable?

I think we have this fear of being vulnerable because it goes against what our culture tells us we should be. We’re told that we need to be strong. We’re told that we need to have it all together.

And being vulnerable often means admitting we’re weak. Admitting that we don’t have it all together.

Since it goes against what we’ve been told, we struggle with it.

But, when I look at Scripture, I see much that goes against what culture tells us. We’re not told we have to be strong and have it all together.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

We can’t help carry another believer’s burdens if we don’t know what they are. And we won’t know what they are, if they don’t tell us. To tell other believers what our burdens are requires that we be vulnerable with them.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

We can’t rejoice with people who are rejoicing if we don’t know they are. And we can’t mourn with those who are mourning if we don’t know they are. Again, to be able to do these things, they have to tell us and it requires vulnerability.

Those are just two of many times in Scripture where we are told to help each other out. It’s a common theme. And the early church is full of examples of believers helping each other with everyday life.

So, if Scripture says this is how we are supposed to live, why does it cause so much fear for many of us?

Being vulnerable with another person is risky. We have to admit our weaknesses and the we don’t have it all together. And we often have to do this without knowing 100% how they will handle that information.

We hope we have chosen well in who we share it with. We hope they won’t use that information against us in the future. But, we don’t know for sure. So it’s risky to be vulnerable. But, we can’t use someone using our vulnerability with them in the wrong way as an excuse to shut down and stop sharing.

Despite the risk, we learn there is something rewarding about being vulnerable with the right people. We see our burdens lifted. We see the power that something being a secret had in our lives broken. We are encouraged.

It may seem like a better choice to stay safe by not being vulnerable with other people, but the risk is worth it. We may find ourselves fearful in the moment when we’re vulnerable, but I do believe that the risk and the fear is worth it – even if sometimes it backfires on us.

I’ve been one of the people that being vulnerable with others scares for much of my life. I took a few experiences where it didn’t go so well and used them as my reason why I would never be vulnerable with anyone again. I thought I was protecting myself, but the truth was that I was isolating myself and it was getting lonely.

Then, a couple months ago, I was at a retreat with my church, where we got honest about our lives and where we were at with each other. Honestly, I wasn’t too sure about that. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there. But, as I did, I discovered something. My life was not that much different than the two people I was sharing with. Sure, our struggles were different, but all three of us had them.

Learning to be vulnerable there and to continue it in the weeks since, hasn’t been a journey free of fear. I still deal with that. But, I’m learning that the freedom and encouragement that comes with being vulnerable is worth the risk and worth facing the fear every time.

We’re not as strong as we think we are. We’re not as strong as we would like to be. We need other people who really know us. God created us that way. We have to take the risk to be vulnerable. It’s the only way to really live.

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