i’ve been thinking about vulnerability lately, about how that word means different things.
there’s the negative connotation, of course. “your firewall has security vulnerabilities” or “your immune system is particularly vulnerable to certain allergens”. in this sense, vulnerability is a weakness, a breakdown in the defense system.
but i’ve been thinking about the other kind a little bit lately; the vulnerability of self. In one sense, it’s the same thing: it is an intentional disarming of defenses, the opening up to others who may or may not inflict harm. This kind of vulnerability is a rebellion, i think. the good kind of rebellion, i mean.
because it’s not saying “you can’t hurt me”. that would be invincibility. instead, vulnerability acknowledges “you can hurt me if you choose, but i am strong enough to endure some pain.”
it is scary, probably because it should be a little scary. what kind of idiot would choose to show their weaknesses on purpose? sometimes a little fear is good; it keeps you from jumping out of moving cars or taunting wild animals. those little fears underpin our shield and we selectively let out (or in)what we choose.
vulnerability is messy little braveries strewn about for everyone to see, shaking hands with uncertainty and sitting with it for awhile, no longer afraid that we might not come to the right answer tonight. or maybe ever. that doesn’t define us as failures, though. it just means that we’re humans, working through it like everyone else.
when we are vulnerable, and we survive, it can serve as an invitation to others to also be vulnerable. and that’s very cool because then you’re not wrestling alone. you get perspective. you hear those other conversations, see how other people are tinkering with the uncertainty. maybe they’re getting it really wrong. or maybe not.
sometimes it’s not so inspiring at first; sometimes people aren’t used to it and it makes them feel uncomfortable, like they’re seeing a naked body walking around in public. so if you’re going to choose vulnerability, try to also choose grace and patience. remember how hard it was for you to choose to be vulnerable and don’t rush others or be too pushy about it.
the rebellion isn’t against them anyway, it’s against your own fears and insecurities. vulnerability is choosing your freedom so you can stop putting so much thought or effort into hiding.
it’s trading fear for acknowledgement.
no more: “what if i failed?”
now: “okay i failed… and?”
no more: “i fear i might be weak”
now: “i am sometimes very weak. i sometimes need others (and sometimes i am strong for others)
no more: “i fear they might judge me”
now: “i acknowledge they might judge me (and if they do, i’ll be fine.)
there are still things that are nobody’s business, of course. i’m not advocating for a complete abandonment of privacy. but there’s something powerful here, i think.
it’s powerful to own your own vulnerability. it’s powerful to intentionally set aside the fear of appearing weak or stupid or wrong, and to absorb that sometimes i am all of those things. sometimes we all are.