. I could write until the day I die about vulnerability. It’s such a difficult subject. It’s so difficult to find a balance between keeping your heart open and sharing altogether too much. Where should we be vulnerable in our lives? And where should we keep ourselves reserved? What crosses into “emotional vomiting” territory?
Sixteen year old me could have told you easily: Everything. Keep it locked down, tied tight, thrown into a chest and that chest into the bottom of the ocean. Clap your back for a job well done and draw a smile on your face with a Sharpie marker. Bing, bang, boom. Five years later and I can tell you with finality that that is a Very Bad Plan. But in the trial and error that is my life, I seem to come upon and enact more Very Bad Plans than Ingeniously Good Plans—or even Somewhat Okay Plans.
Vulnerability is one of those sticky gray areas. I like to think I have found some sort of precarious balance, but there are definitely days that I look back on with a grimace worthy of making my face stick. Even when I do something I’m proud of, I’m constantly reminded that I have such a long way to go before I truly answer the question.
Is it good to keep some things hidden and others open? What falls into which category? As much as I pride myself on being open and genuine, how many times have I come from the hardest day of my life, only to plaster on a smile and say “good!” when someone asks how I am doing? And for crying out loud, is that a bad thing?!
I don’t have all the answers. But I like to think I have two or three. First: A lot of my issues and questions can be answered simply, with one word: Compassion. The days where I feel the best, regardless of what has happened to me, are the days where I don’t think about how what has happened is affecting me.
Let me explain. Vulnerability is important. But the danger that such a word poses is the possibility of self focus. Vulnerability is not about being open about all that is happening to you. It is opening your heart to being affected by others. When I don’t think about my day, when I strive to earnestly pay attention to what is going on with others around me instead of how their actions are affecting me, when I work to solve a difficult situation by asking myself “how can I be a servant?” instead of becoming offended or angry—those are my best days. Because it’s through doing these things that you’re opening yourself up for injury, not through being truthful about every emotion you’ve ever had. And trust me, it’s terrifying. But it’s also so, so rewarding.
There is one thing that we should be totally vulnerable about every second of the day, though. And that’s our relationship with Christ. And boy, if you thought the last one was scary, it’s got nothing on this. You don’t want to be labeled as the “Weird Jesus Lady/Guy”, do you? Well, too bad. To reference a super popular section of the Bible, when David is criticized for dancing half naked through the city, he replies that he would dance fully naked if it were before the Lord. He says “I will be humiliated in my own eyes”(2 Sam. 6:22), which is kind of what we work to avoid every day. Vulnerability means humiliation, especially when it comes to God. It hurts so much in the moment. There have been times where I have been given the choice to be strong and vulnerable or be silent. I have chosen both on different occasions. The first one in the moment feels like I’m being torn in half, and I am not exaggerating. The second one feels great when it is happening—no conflict! Comfort zones, yay! But later, the shame is equally if not more painful than the first option. Because with the first, though I feel as if I am being torn in half, the Lord supports me. Through humiliation, I actually end up feeling stronger—because instead of my human power, I have the undercurrent of the Lord’s strength. And it feels just like that—an undercurrent that pulls me along with it, amazing and uncontrollable and utterly terrifying in the best way.
Like I said, vulnerability is weird. It’s not really what we as a society have labeled it. As a parting gift, here’s a strange paradox: We’re not complex and mysterious if we keep our emotions locked up, but we’re not any more complex if we let them out, either. Because what we do, read or think does not change our value. Our value is ultimately, from beginning to end, immovable in Christ. So once we stop focusing on it and start focusing on trying to find that value in others—that’s when we’re truly being vulnerable.