I heard my husband say this to one of our kids on the phone a couple of days ago: "It never hurts to be vulnerable."
(Things I Love About My Husband, Number 4,682)
We talked about it later, and I said, "But that's why we're not vulnerable. Because we're afraid that it will hurt us."
And we talked about the fear we have of losing a relationship if we say something that might not be acceptable to the other person.
What if we hit that person's hot button on politics or abortion or homosexuality or gun control?
What if we use a word they don't like?
What if they want something and we don't?
What if we're vulnerable, and they reject us?
We concluded that if we're not vulnerable, we don't have a real relationship anyway.
We might have the illusion of a relationship.
But it's not a real relationship, if we can't be vulnerable and still be acceptable.
Mike Yaconelli puts it like this: "People who pretend, have pretend relationships."
So. If you want real, it never hurts to be vulnerable.
But. If you haven't had a lot of practice being vulnerable, or if there is something you experience as deep and dark and shameful, and if you've gotten a lot of messages from your nearest and dearest about how important it is to be perfect--well, being vulnerable can feel like a big huge leap into the abyss.
Pretend relationships seem like better than no relationships, when we're standing on the edge of that cliff.
And this is where I would say, find somebody who is safe and start to be vulnerable.
For many of us, a safe place for vulnerability might be a counselor or a pastor or a close friend. It could be a Celebrate Recovery group, Alcoholics Anonymous, or AlAnon.
Some of us have tried being vulnerable, only to have it blow up in our faces.
We got told to read our Bibles more. To pray better. To just stop it, because Christians don't do those things.
And here is another genius thought from my husband.
He says what if you had a leaky toilet, and you got a handyman to come and fix it. But instead of fixing it, he made it worse and left you with a geyser in your bathroom instead of a simple little leak.
You would not conclude that toilets could not be fixed.
You would conclude that the guy was an idiot, and then call in somebody reputable.
But when it comes to emotional stuff, when we reach out for help and find ourselves dealing with idiots (and there are lots of them out there, so it's inevitable), somehow we conclude that nobody could possibly love and accept us, and that our emotional world is broken beyond hope of redemption, and we must die lost and alone. (We catastrophize in these situations, you know we do.)
Of course emotional risks are the big ones.
But they are also the most rewarding, when they pay off. And I think the pay off is worth trying--again and again and again, if you have to--until you find other people who get it.
Who are sick of pretend.
Who want to be real.
Who know that it never hurts to be vulnerable.
Because the weird thing about vulnerability is that it seems like weakness at the time, admitting how bad things are. But once you've told the truth, the lies don't control you any more. There's freedom. Power.
The truth sets you free.
Somebody said that once, and it appears to actually be true.
Over the past couple of years, I have developed a teensy little addiction to TED Talks. A couple of my favorites are Brene Brown's talks on vulnerability and shame. She's funny, she's real, she's so worth listening to. So here you go. (One of my favorite lines is, "We're falling apart and it feels great!")