Vulnerability. Just the word itself can be enough to cause a shudder, even still after years purposely journeying uphill trying to embrace the long way of walking through fears and putting on a kind of bravery as a suit of armor that too often just feels like added weight. Walking ever upward with tired muscles burdened from the incline, traveling through fog and clouds and pounding rain, sometimes just having to put your head down and tell yourself to just keep moving, one more step.
But then as you pause to catch your breath, you look up and see it—the clearing ahead as the sun is shining through. So with a new fervor you continue trudging on this pathway and then all of sudden you can see it all—the trail that had led you up this mountain. The treetops to what had just felt like thick forests, and streams running through golden valleys, and the fields of flowers bursting with joy and life that couldn’t be without the rain. A beauty that catches the heart and makes the arduous climb worth it because you can suddenly see so much that you would never get to behold had you not chosen to embrace this twisty, winding road. And seeing what can now be seen, you realize that the climb is suddenly worth it.
For many people, choosing to embrace vulnerability can be utterly terrifying because it means being seen—being open and willing to let others see the heart of you and for you to be able to look deeply into them. Vulnerability has sure felt like an uphill climb in my own life as I have struggled to come to terms with hurts and wrongs that I have carried with me from my past that have taken hold so deep that at times I can close up like a clam and not let anyone else in. It takes intentionally choosing to walk the road of vulnerability and a strength that is so far beyond me, but as I have allowed light to be shed on those dark places within me, I’ve come to realize that allowing myself to be seen by others and truly letting others in makes me a better person and helps me to love others more deeply in return.
Here are four things that I have learned walking this steep hill of vulnerability that has led to healthier relationships in my life:
Vulnerability helps us call out those false identities we carry and to speak truth over our lives.
When we live our lives focused on past pain we’ve experienced and the struggles that we face, it is easy to believe lies about ourselves and to see ourselves only in light of the circumstances we face. For years I believed my identity was rooted in a very public tragedy my family has had to walk through. It made me feel unloved and not worth knowing when all those around me only focused on this one thing that happened to me. It took learning that I was more than my circumstances and calling out those lies that I believed for too long for me to develop relationships where people can see me for the whole of who I am and embrace me in totality. My truth? I am loved and I am worth it.
What are lies that you have believed about yourself, or that your past has shaped you to believe, that you need to lay down? What truth can you proclaim over yourself instead?
Vulnerability leaves room for being wrong.
Oh the joy of realizing that it is okay to be wrong, to admit that we fail! For the majority of my younger years, I was afraid of messing up and making mistakes. It led me to pleasing everyone else no matter the cost to myself. But when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we realize it is okay to mess up and make mistakes and say “I’m sorry” without the world falling down at our feet. Because when we find others truly willing to be their vulnerable selves as well, we realize that we all fall down and have moments when we truly mess up. Asking for forgiveness helps ups to extend it to others in return, and admitting wrongs and moving on is an important part to cultivating healthy relationships in our lives. It makes us more humble and compassionate people.
Have you ever been wrong? Oh good, you’re human too! Who do you need to seek forgiveness from? Who can you extend a little extra grace and mercy to in your life?
Vulnerability looks like pain but feels like freedom.
Being willing to be seen as we are—to be our goofy, ridiculous, flawed selves in a society of too many unasked for opinions can dredge up insecurities and pain in our lives. Being that open makes us feel exposed and raw and naked, and that is terrifying. Getting to that place itself can be an uphill battle of painful memories and experiences that we have to work through. But when we push through the discomfort of being seen for ourselves just as we are, we find freedom in its place—the freedom to be just who we are and to find others that would expect no less than you being fully you. Because what this world really needs is more people just willing to be their genuine selves. The world needs your light, just as it is. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.
What insecurities are present in your life that you need to confront instead of push to the wayside that can help you lead a more open, vulnerable life?
Vulnerability helps us look at life with our blinders off.
We all have moments when we are far too completely wrapped up in ourselves. Sometimes it’s because we truly are walking through a season of our life where anything beyond our own circumstances is just too much to deal with. Other times it can be in response to hurts we’ve felt and wounds that are still just too raw. We all have scars we carry, and sometimes instead of just putting a pretty bandage over them, we need to let them ooze and drain so they can be healed instead. We learn so much about ourselves when we allow ourselves to be open, even about our pain. We realize that we are capable of so much more than we ever dreamed, able to see ourselves clearly and look with love into the lives of those around us. Letting others into those overwhelming seasons when life is swirling around us gives us the strength to endure, and equips us to walk alongside others as they trudge up a part of the path that we have already walked before. It builds empathy and love.
If you are in the midst of an overwhelming season, who can you go to for support and love? How have the stormy seasons of your past enabled you to clear the fog in someone else’s?
The climb is not easy. The way is certainly steep. But when we give it all we have and choose to move forward and embrace vulnerability, then that path that we’re on? If we look to the right and the left, we see others walking the same road, too. So we can band together and weather the trail with our arms linked, journeying forward together through this thing that we call life, taking turns to lead the way for one another. And when we reach those clearings on top of the mountain and look back on the journey that has led us there, the joy multiplies like a current running through the ground as we all look around at one another celebrating this great adventure that we are on together, and it’s good.