This is a continuation of last weeks article, A Life Without Vulnerability is Not Really Life.
Click here to read part one.
The Pathway Towards Freedom
In order to avoid getting hurt, to avoid pain and suffering, we must also avoid love, intimacy, connection, community, friendship. We’d have to box ourselves in a small contained area, void of any human interaction.
You know what that sounds like? Prison. It's not life. It's certainly not freedom.
Yes, vulnerability might be an invitation for pain. But its also a pathway towards love and a requirement for freedom.
As Brene Brown says in her book, Rising Strong, “If we’re going to put ourselves out there and love with our whole hearts, we’re going to experience heartbreak. If we’re going to try new, innovative things, we’re going to fail. If we’re going to risk caring and engaging, we’re going to experience disappointment.”
I'm going to do my best Shakespeare impression here: To live with vulnerability is to kick fear in the face.
Recently, I was talking with a woman who read my article on facing our fear of Mother's Day. She shared with me a powerful story of her own vulnerability. Mother's Day has always been a very challenging time for her. Years ago, she lost her mother to suicide and has wrestled with bitterness, confusion, guilt, and numerous other messy emotions, especially around that time of year. Her daughter, a talented artist, found a picture of this woman's mother and drew a picture of it as a beautiful Mother's Day gift.
She shared with me the messy thoughts and emotions she experienced. On one hand, she loves her daughter's artwork and would want to be happy to showcase it in her home. However, looking at the drawing would serve as a reminder of all the painful thoughts and memories that she is currently wrestling with. Yet, If she didn't display it, she feared she would send he daughter a message that she didn't value her work or didn't think it was good enough to display. She was weighing the pain of hanging the artwork with any guilt and resentment she'd create by not hanging it.
Instead, she chose a third, more vulnerable option: share honestly with her daughter. She showed her love and appreciation for the beautiful artistic gesture while talking to her about the pain the drawing created. She stated that while she was working through some of these heart issues, she just wasn't ready to display the artwork. Her daughter responded by thanking her for her honesty Her other daughter shared how it was really nice to hear her mom open up, seeing her as a person and not just as a mom.
By definition, her vulnerability did "weaken" her, opening her up to the possibility of additional pain. But it also demonstrated great courage and strength, leading to greater connection and further healing.
Several months ago, I was talking with a family member who shared about an experience at work. She has been in her current position for over 12 years. She's good at her job and knows the position well. Recently, a supervisor position opened up; however, she didn't see herself as being a manager or supervisor and wasn't interested in applying. Several different people approached her about the position to gauge her interest and encourage her to apply. Yet she still hesitated. At her core, she was afraid to apply because she didn't want to experience the pain of failure or rejection if she didn't get the job.
Now aware of this fear, she began to pray. At this point, it was less about the job and more about finding the courage to make herself available. Through some very specific answers to prayer and continued encouragement from others, she faced her fear and applied. She had no control over the outcome of that application, but risking failure to experience freedom and professional growth has been a major breakthrough in her life.
I recently asked her for an update. Her exact words were “It’s an ongoing story, it's not completed yet.” She mentioned some challenging circumstances while waiting for an answer, including the application process being restarted and the tragic death of a coworker. She wasn't selected for the original position; however, the unfortunate passing of her team member has left a void that she's helped fill. The courage and increased faith she's gained as a result her original application has been valuable in helping fill that role. Now she is waiting for an official decision if she will be selected to fill this position permanently.
The vulnerability she displayed by making herself available in the midst of fear and through sharing a story with an unknown outcome shows us that it's not just about the final outcome. It's about the process.
Putting It All Together
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." - Ambrose Redmoon
With both of these stories, the circumstances were not the issue. The painting and the promotion simply exposed the issues in their hearts. Confronted with a choice, both women chose the path of vulnerability and and experienced growth and freedom as a result.
So, perhaps the simplest definition of vulnerability that Brene offers is the most accurate:
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”
Sounds a lot like William Wallace to me. I guess it's time to watch Braveheart again...
Join The Conversation
Has there been a time when your "weakness" demonstrated strength and courage? Or have you witnessed a moment when the vulnerability of someone else made an impact on your life? Share your comments below or contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.
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