Vulnerability is a heavy word for me. Showing weakness or emotion is a struggle, and my fear of appearing too needy to others is crippling. To protect myself from these insecurities, I learned at an early age to hide behind a thick mask.
My sister and are very close. But growing up, we approached life quite different from one another. She was the more emotional of the two of us, feeling her feels in large extremes. I, on the other hand, was more reserved in how I expressed my thoughts and feelings.
In this way, she received more of the attention during emotional upheavals while I was often left to manage my feelings on my own. Sharing a room, I have many memories of mentally working through my troubles on my own bed while watching our mom hold my sister on her bed, whispering comforts into her ear and stroking her hair. Though my parents did their best with the information they were given at the time, as a child I couldn’t help but feel the sting.
Over time, I learned to hold it in, feeling as though other’s struggles and emotions were more important than mine, not wanting to draw unnecessary attention to myself by sharing anything too vulnerable. Often, I was praised for having nerves of steel, never letting anything get to me.
So, I created for myself a tough exterior of independence and confidence, always keeping it together, bounding into any situation without reserve. This allowed me to never really need anybody, to absolutely not be a burden, and to approach life void of ever feeling abandoned or passed over.
But here’s the problem with this façade – it’s awfully lonely.
The Importance of Being Vulnerable
After re-surrendering my whole life to the Holy Spirit early in 2015, I began to notice how alone I felt in my struggles, and how supported others were in theirs. So, I did what I do best and I began to observe. What was the difference between them and myself?
The answer? They allowed others in. They shared their hurts and frustrations. They called on each other in their times of need. It seemed so easy, so why couldn’t I do that?
I had to ask myself, “why do I avoid being vulnerable?” What is it that is so scary? I was determined to learn and grow in this area.
Does Being Vulnerable Help You Grow?
Vulnerability absolutely helps you grow. We cannot be open to change when we are so toughened by that hard outer shell. And if we’re not open to change, the Holy Spirit cannot begin His important work.
Years ago, a good friend gave me a beautiful teapot that she brought back from her assignment as a missionary in China. Unfortunately, the teapot broke during her flight and she had to glue it back together. In spite of the damaged gift, we had so much fun looking for the analogy in the broken vessel, with so many cracks. The teapot reminded us of ourselves and the tea of the Holy Spirit. While the cracks showed weakness in the teapot, they also allowed the tea to flow freely from more than the single spout. Just like the damaged teapot, our own cracks allow the Holy Spirit to flow freely in all aspects of our lives.
For so long, I was incredibly afraid of cracks in my exterior. I couldn’t let anyone see the insecurities and emotion that lied within. Vulnerability just waiting to come out and be trampled upon.
But you know what? Without those cracks, or weaknesses, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t shine through! It’s okay for others to see my weaknesses and vulnerability because through them, they can see Him instead of me.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Accepting the cracks that I already had and going so far as to embrace the new cracks in my life, gave God the opening to come in and to start working on my heart. Allowing my cracks to show, being vulnerable with those around me, allowed others the benefit of seeing God work in my life.
The cracks in our shell allow for both the inward and outward movement of the Holy Spirit.
This is what true growth looks like.
How Do You Apply Vulnerability?
1. Share prayer requests and BE HONEST!!!
One thing I figured out early on, was that if you need prayer in a certain situation, you have to tell people about that situation! Sharing struggles can be hard, especially if you don’t want anybody to think badly of those involved, or of you for that matter. But friends aren’t going to know how to pray for you if you don’t tell them what to pray for.
When I began to do this, I found that not only did the women in my life pray, they followed up with me down the road. People cared, and they wanted to help.
2. Reach out when you have a need
If you need help, ask for help. If you need an ear, tell a friend you need someone to talk to. Being vulnerable means taking a step out of your comfort zone and trusting that others will step up.
This is a lesson I’ve had to learn and relearn this year. I’ve always just handled my business, never needing anybody to step in. But with Bruce’s surgeries, we’ve found ourselves in a little over our heads. For the first time, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and reach out. And you know what? We have not been disappointed.
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3. Ask yourself why
Being honest with yourself is the first step toward healthy vulnerability. If you can determine why you are so scared of being vulnerable, you might be able to take a step toward healing in this area.
For me, it was my fear of rejection, for you it might be something else.
4. Pray for help
God wants nothing more than to be invited to work in your heart. If you ask Him, He will happily oblige.
5. Trust in God’s help
Allowing God to work within your heart can sometimes be the hardest thing to do. Acknowledging your need for refinement can be painful and difficult. But I promise, God is good and His work in your heart will always be worth it in the end.
Does Being Vulnerable Make People Like You?
One thing that I have observed over and over again is that people need to be needed. Beyond that, they LIKE to be needed. When we have our protective shells on, so that we appear to have it all together, others will assume you don’t need them.
I have seen this play out in my own life so many times. Often, I have stood silently by, inwardly struggling, while watching others rescued time and again. I am ashamed to say that I have both envied and resented the way some seem to always find their way into the hearts of others, so that they are constantly encouraged and supported in their trials.
There are many who have the vulnerability thing down. They have no problem being transparent and raw in their emotions. I am not one of those people. But I am trying. God has instructed us to lean on one another. He has given us community for support and accountability, but we can’t have those things if we aren’t willing to be vulnerable to someone first.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13
If we don’t open our hearts to one another, our relationships cannot grow deeper as God intended. When you refuse to let someone in, they don’t know how to love and support you best, so they move on.
As women especially, we tend to bond over vulnerable sharing. Those late-night heart-to-hearts are all about what it means to feel vulnerable. Telling someone that you trust them with your inner soft parts, those extreme insecurities or painful experiences, can grow a friendship in the fastest way possible.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Notice that this verse doesn’t say, “Bear someone else’s burdens only”. It says, “Bear one another’s burdens.” This means that we are to share our burdens with those we trust. It means that it needs to be a mutual arrangement.
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Why is it Important to be Honest and Transparent?
Without honesty and transparency, we are giving those around us an incorrect understanding of who we are. If I don’t ever share my weaknesses with those who are close to me, I give the impression that I don’t have any (or at least that I am not aware of them).
If I choose to avoid transparency with the sins I struggle with, I am choosing to refuse accountability in life. Vulnerability in this area is difficult because it is hard to admit to others that we are struggling in a sinful area. The problem with this is that God has called us to accountability in community.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
The importance of transparency in communication is crucial. A friend will not know to pray for you if you don’t tell them you need prayer. A loved one will not know they’ve done you wrong, if you don’t tell them that you’ve been hurt.
As cool as telepathy is in the movies, it is not a real thing. I don’t know how many times I have had my feelings hurt from a need of mine not being met when I never actually shared that need with the offender. That’s not exactly fair to those who’ve unwittingly hurt my feelings.
When I choose to communicate a vulnerability with my husband, he then knows better how to work with that vulnerability in the future. There have been many times in our marriage that I have ignored a joke that has hurt my feelings. When I laugh off that joke, he thinks its okay. Once I finally decide to be transparent with him about my feelings, and explain the reason that I feel that way, he knows to be more sensitive in that area going forward. If I never share my hurt, then it’s on me, not on him. (Now, if I do choose to share, and he doesn’t choose sensitivity going forward, that is on him and now I have the right to be upset.)
Vulnerability in the Bible
The best example of vulnerability in the Bible is with Jesus Himself. Jesus, who had no need to be scared or anxious, displayed the greatest moment of vulnerability before His Father in the garden of Gethsemane, just before His imminent arrest.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Matthew 26:36-46
Not only was He vulnerable and transparent before God, He put Himself in a vulnerable situation by trusting His disciples to keep watch. Before God He cried out and shared His weakness while at the same time choosing to trust and obey. And while in His weakest moments, His disciples failed Him.
Trusting others with your vulnerability is one of the hardest things to do. And they will fail you. People are human after all. We are all sinful beings incapable of holding anybody else up on our own. But we can trust God. He will not fail you. The more you let Him in, the easier it will be to let others in. And the more you let others in through your vulnerability, the less lonely you’ll be.