References Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, LMSW
Vulnerability has gotten a bad rap. Many people have come to assume that, in order to truly be strong, they must wall themselves off from anything that could possibly hurt them. This may include risky career choices, relationships with certain people, or expressing their needs and desires.
This is false, as Brené Brown discusses in her book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” She addresses the following four misconceptions:
1) Vulnerability is Weakness
Vulnerability actually requires a tremendous amount of courage. Think about the excuses that keep you from being vulnerable– you’re fearful of the reactions it might incur. It takes a spine of steel to face the prospect of being ridiculed after sharing your most private feelings, dreams, or fears, and doing it anyway.
Vulnerability is about more than just emotional intimacy. There’s a reason the “comfort zone” is defined the way it is, because it’s uncomfortable to leave it. But playing it too safe can also lead to discomfort– dissatisfaction from a dream deferred, a stagnating relationship with a partner you settled for, or even the failure of what you considered your “safe” option. Be willing to be vulnerable invites potential failure and disappointment, but beyond those, it invites the possibility of a greater happiness than what you experience now.
Scripture encourages us to be vulnerable. As James wrote in his letter to the twelve, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)
2) “I Don’t do Vulnerability”
Everyone is vulnerable at one point or another, the difference is that whether a person makes a persistent effort to minimize these occurrences more than others, and how a person reacts to being pushed into vulnerability.
Being open to vulnerability is being open to an opportunity for intimacy and growth. It’s understandable to be frightened that sharing your private inner self with others can lead to pain, but what if it doesn’t? Finding the courage to share yourself with others helps you exercise the courage to be even more vulnerable in the future. It also creates opportunities for drawing closer to the person you opening up to.
The Bible portrays character building as one of the greatest blessings a person can experience. After all, self-improvement helps us enhance our relationships with others, and better equips us for further challenges. As James also wrote in his epistle, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)
3) Vulnerability is Letting it All Hang Out
Why is over-sharing not vulnerability? Vulnerability is about fostering emotional support and intimacy. It necessitates creating boundaries that respect the needs of both parties. It also requires that the exchange be emotionally challenging for the sharing party. It’s totally possible for someone to spread every lurid detail of the private lives all over social media, and never bat an eyelash. Whereas others may struggle just to ask for helping opening a door when their hands are full.
As Brown wrote, “Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust… Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.”
4) We Can Go it Alone
If being alone for extended periods of time was an adequate state of being for humans, loneliness would not be such a painful emotion. Multiple studies, including one presented in 2014 by researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine, have indicated that chronic loneliness suppresses the immune system, and can even short a person’s life span.
Needing help on occasion is not something that ends in childhood. And refusing to acknowledge that you are not a superhero forces you to make sacrifices for the sake of upholding your pride, and succumbing to your insecurity. It also deprives you of opportunities to be mutual with others about your respective inadequacies. No one wants to appear weak in front of a superhero. By propping up this façade of omnipotence, we continue to keep each other at a distance, rather than drawing closer over the ways we can help one another.
Scripture constantly reiterates the theme of believers supporting one another. Even the Son of God acquired a group of close followers to support his Earthly ministry. As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “ Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Eccl. 4:9-10 ESV)
Christian Counseling for Understanding Vulnerability
If you have so much of your identity wrapped up in presenting yourself as all capable, it feels as if you just cannot be yourself around people, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They will help you delve into the reasons why you feel compelled to pretend this way with others, and how to be more comfortable in your own skin. A professional Christian counselor will use biblical principles and therapeutic techniques to help you embrace your weaknesses, as well as your strengths, and use those opportunities to grow closer to others.
“Looking for the sunset,” courtesy of Giuseppe Milo, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Sad Man and Rain,” courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net, CC0 Public Domain License