Vulnerability is something I know something about. Don’t we all? When I first heard Brene Brown was a Vulnerability and Shame Researcher I thought it was a made up job. I thought the journey I was on with vulnerability was a one woman show. To hear that millions of people feel the same? To learn that someone actually studies this and it’s a crucial part to thriving? That’s an eye opener for me.
I write a blog where I put myself out there in the public domain again and again. I’ve been on a journey where I’ve had to let the opinions of others be like rain drops off a duck’s back.
When I feel vulnerable its like I am cornered, not in control, open to personal judgement. So the machine takes over, spurting out the one liners, positive all the time, don’t ever say how you’re really feeling. To let the real you out? That’s harder. So be the machine, be a robot, fit in.
I feel it as a blogger, and more as a woman but never more so than as a mother.
The definition of vulnerable is to be: exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
So why are we being encouraged to be vulnerable in church? Why is being vulnerable seen as a good thing?
These are questions I am asking myself and I’m not sure I know the answers to, because even though I don’t think vulnerability is a weakness, I do think it can make us ‘feel’ weak. Don’t you?
I know that there have been times when I’ve given information out to someone only to have them use that information against me to attack me later. Has that ever happened to you?
So how can we be vulnerable and feel the fruits of that? Firstly I think there are two types of vulnerability. I think there’s good vulnerability and then there’s the please “use your common sense” type.
For example babies are totally vulnerable, they need constant care and attention. To leave them open to attack or harm is negligence. Don’t get vulnerability and negligence mixed up.
Another example could be a man or woman walking home on their own late at night, or jumping off a balcony into a swimming pool below or drinking a whole bottle of gin in one go. This is not the kind of vulnerability that is good for you. I’ve learnt this the hard way. Use your common sense, don’t do things that will harm you.
The second type of vulnerability is what I call “you make me brave”. This is the type I’ve been learning about and it uses the motto “tell the truth, even if your voice shakes”.
I watched a Jonathan Ross show awhile ago and Florence and the Machine were on. Florence Welch is the lead singer and although I appreciate the songs they sing I’d never really been a fan of theirs.
I noticed Florence didn’t have any shoes on as she stood there and sang her song, confidently and beautifully as always. It was only when Jonathan went over to help her walk to the sofa for the interview afterwards that I realised she’d hurt her foot. She’d done the whole performance with a broken foot!
As she sat there with the other celebrities it became clear very quickly that she is not your usual celebrity, meek and quiet in her speaking voice she timidly spoke and said, “this is my first interview on tv”. I felt an immediate connection to her, she was out of her comfort zone, sat on the sofa being interviewed injured and hurting with a broken foot and shaking like a leaf.
I applauded her in my head (and heart) because she was being brave. I applauded her because she was vulnerable. She was hurt and she performed anyway. Her voice shook but she spoke anyway. I felt a connection to her because she showed her real self. It was brave and beautiful. It’s a choice I’m trying to make every day in my own life.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown quotes a Theodore Roosevelt speech, sometimes called “The Man in the Arena” which he delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris on 23/04/1910. I think Florence was in the arena and I want to be in the arena too.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. , whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Look at Jesus (who knew vulnerability on our behalf), sent into the wilderness (the arena) for 40 days and 40 nights AND He was hungry before being tempted, have you ever made a decision on an empty stomach?. Most people would fold out of sheer hunger.
Jesus was vulnerable to attack and to harm. He was vulnerable to weakness, to throwing in the towel and saying “Yes I’ll take my kingdom now”, he was vulnerable to ending it all, taking the control back. Jesus stood firm.
Thank you Jesus for standing firm.
It is because of His vulnerability and bravery and his willingness to go to the cross that we can be vulnerable and brave today. I believe He had his armour on, I believe He was covered in prayer AND I believe he added wisdom to the balance. It is because He was tempted and stood firm that He knows our vulnerability on a human level and understands our struggles with failure.
Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
Whatever God has called you to in a given situation, chances are you may have to be vulnerable, check in with Him about what He wants you do and say, being real is to be vulnerable, in essence.
Use common sense, He has given us a way to be vulnerable and wise, put on your armour.
Put on the full armour of God. God wants you to be vulnerable, brave AND protected from the enemy who would have us stumble and fall.
Ephesians 6:10-18 The Armour of God
10.Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Imagine yourself actually putting on the armour, one item at a time. Pray for God’s protection over your heart and mind. Imagine God’s angels surrounding you. Grab yourself a mentor to counsel you and pray for you.
Finally it’s ok you know, you don’t have to let every single person you meet into every single part of your life. Talk to people that you trust. I have a mentor and I have people that I know I can go to when I need say ‘no, I’m not ok’. These are people who know me well enough that even if I say I’m ok they know I’m not, it’s all about relationship.
I’m still working on being vulnerable, on being real, it’s a journey. I’m not ‘real’ 100% of the time. Are you?
I’m aiming for the arena though, I’m aiming to be brave, I’m aiming for imperfection and I’m intending to use my common sense, and to be protected.
Be vulnerable and ‘tell the truth even if your voice shakes’, and remember you don’t have to do it alone, grab a mentor and take Jesus with you wherever you go.