What does it mean to be vulnerable? People use this word in many different ways:
- Sometimes a nation or army can be vulnerable to an outside attack from an enemy.
- Maybe an animal is in a vulnerable position and can be more easily attacked or devoured by an animal higher up the food chain.
- My blog has been vulnerable in the past because I had plugin that was not safe (aka vulnerable) from the outside. Some Russian hackers got into my site (and thousands of others) and took over my blog for a week or two.
My friend Clay Scroggins, the campus pastor of North Point Community Church (NPCC) in Alpharetta, Georgia, recently defined vulnerability as “letting someone see into my life that puts me at risk.” Clay helps lead a “Come as you are” gathering at NPCC called NP Nights, where they recently did a three-part series on vulnerability called Naked + Afraid: How To Open Up Without Falling Apart.
Why Is Vulnerability So Tough For Us?
We tend to be people who are good at covering ourselves up. In other words, we run away from vulnerability. We want to present the best picture of ourselves and want to impress others.
For example, I help lead a ministry for premarried couples. We often say seriously dating and engaged couples date each other’s Public Relations (PR) departments. After all, they want to impress each other and win the other one over so that they’ll want to continue to date each other. The PR department works overtime when they meet their significant other’s parents for the first time!
Many times as parents, we live in fear of letting our kids see where we fall short. We play the hypocrite as we place standards on them that we can’t/don’t want to keep ourselves. And, our pride prevents us from being honest and vulnerable with our kids.
But, enough about others.
Let me speak for myself since I don’t know many of you and can’t make assumptions about you. I want to be a person who presents the best picture of myself. I want to impress you and want you to like me. And, I want you to think I have a great marriage, amazing kids, and a near-perfect love for Jesus. Fortunately, you get large slices of vulnerability with every blog post I write. You see all sides of me, not just the good, “I want to impress you” side.
Here are two things you need to know about vulnerability:
1. Vulnerability builds bridges with others. We fear being real with others because we think it will push others away. But, and we know this is true, when we’re real and vulnerable (when we risk and let others see into our lives), it draws others in. They feel safe, and the playing field is now level.
2. We fear being found out, so we hide. We think we can hide from others and we even think we can hide from God.
But, here’s the truth: You’ve already been found out. The God of the universe already knows everything about you. If you don’t believe me, read Psalm 139 to see how God is acquainted with all of your ways and everything about you.
Even though He knows all about you, He still loves you. He still chose to “demonstrate His own love for us in this: While we still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
If the perfect God of the universe knows all and still sent His Son for us, then what can we possibly fear from other humans?
So if these facts about vulnerability are true, then how should this affect our lives?
Vulnerability at work
In the NP Nights series, one of the speakers made an important distinction for when you lead a meeting. When you’re gathering information and opinions, go last so that you don’t shut things down. When you’re asking others to be vulnerable or share, go first and set the pace. Lastly, be willing to take some risks and make mistakes/fail along the way. Sometimes my pride and fear of failure hold me back. Don’t let fears pull you away from doing something great!
Vulnerability in your marriage
What are those things, big or small, that you’re hiding from your spouse? A close friend of mine recently confessed a few thoughts/struggles with their spouse. This friend was brave, honest, and confessed first. Though the short-term will be tough, their marriage will be much stronger down the road.
If you’re struggling in your marriage and need help, or if you want someone to help you be more vulnerable in your marriage, look for a local marriage ministry.
Vulnerability with your kids
As I seek to be a better daddy to my four boys, the most consistent piece of counsel I receive is to be vulnerable with my kids. This doesn’t mean I share every deep, dark secret with them. But, it does mean I sometimes share when I fall short. I humble myself and apologize and ask for forgiveness when needed. I don’t dare allow my kids to think their dad doesn’t struggle.
I’ve seen such great fruit from this with my kids as I’ve watched a few of them open up and share/confess with me. As I’ve created a safe place by sharing my own struggles, they’ve done the same with me. In the process, I hope they realize the blessing of being open and vulnerable with others.
How can you be more vulnerable with your children? Are there ways you can create a more safe place for them?
Vulnerability with your community/friends
When I look back on my life, the largest seasons of growth have come when I’ve openly shared my struggles with others. I’ve let people into my pornography battle, my eating issues, and my people-pleasing ways. Instead of the partial picture, make the decision to fully let others in.
Leaders go first. Do you have a group of friends you can open up to? Please don’t use the excuse that they won’t understand or they won’t return the vulnerability. They might not at first, but it’s worth the risk.
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To be clear, I’m not telling you that you need to share every secret with everyone else. Please don’t follow-up on this post by vomiting every sin on Twitter or Facebook. But, I do challenge you to think through who you could/should share some of these struggles with.
Here’s what I know about vulnerability: We often think when we’re vulnerable it should lead us to shame, isolation, and loneliness. But, what we really find when we’re vulnerable with others is that we build a bridge when we connect. I KNOW this is true – every time I’ve been vulnerable on this blog, it’s met with love, compassion, empathy, and grace. I’m reminded, once again, that our vulnerability with others is one of the greatest gifts we can give to friends and family.
Who are those people in your life you can be vulnerable with?
A version of this post originally appeared on ScottKedersha.com and was republished with permission.