Friday, October 19, 2012

Daring to be Vulnerable

Vulnerability. I am not fond of the word or the feeling. Being vulnerable to others means allowing them to see the real me - the imperfect me. What will they say? What with they think and not say? What will they say to others? So, instead of being vulnerable, I protect myself. I build a wall that will keep the hurt out. Problem is that the wall also keeps others from really getting to know me. They only know the me I allow them to see.  It takes real courage to let others see past the facade that I have built around myself. Sometimes I have built the wall so well, that I have a hard time identifying my own feelings. This cannot be a healthy way to travel through the journey of life!

I recently started reading a new book, well listening to a new book, by Brene Brown. The book is about how to live wholeheartedly, and the first step towards a whole hearted life is to embrace vulnerability. Talk about a big first step! I have 40 years of practice at avoiding vulnerability. Now you tell me that to be truly healthy, vulnerability is part of the answer? Where do I even begin?

In Daring Greatly, Brene quotes Teddy Roosevelt, who pointed out that "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 better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." The arena is the game of life. We spend the majority of our time thinking about what the people in the stands are saying about us. We worry about hos we will measure up on their yardsticks. But, the people who really matter, are the ones you are on the playing field with us. These are the people who love us despite our faults. Who accept us as we are. These are the ones with whom it safe to be vulnerable.  

To this point in life, I have learned that it is not safe to be vulnerable. In fact, vulnerability is a bad word to me - a sign of weakness. Therefore I have spend large amounts of time trying to perfect myself before trying anything. My  motto was something like "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing perfectly." The trouble has been that life is messy. Perfection does not exist. I can never get something perfect enough that there is no chance of failure. And in the process, I am missing out on the opportunity to meet new people and offer my talents to bless others.  

 “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

So vulnerable is a concept that I must now learn to embrace "because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world."  If I want to truly connect with others, I have to learn to take down the wall that I incorrectly believed was protecting me. I have to let others see the real me. I have to take risks, be innovative, and be willing to fail. I have to be willing to share my pain and disappointment with others. Connections are what gives life a purpose. I have been fighting connections for fear that others would not like the real me. But recently, God has been opening my eyes to the reality that my worth does not come from what I have done perfectly. Instead, it comes from WHO I am - a child of God. Accepting this basic truth allows me to start taking chances - to allow others to see that I am weak and unsteady in my walk. I don't know what tomorrow  holds, but I know WHO holds my tomorrows. My weaknesses are made strong through the power of the King of Kings. He can use my disappointments to reach out to others. The pain I experience in life can be made beautiful through Him. There is freedom there. No longer do I have to try and protect myself. Now I only have to offer myself to Him - and connections with others are now the tool through which He can use my imperfections to show others about His Grace. If I am trying to show myself as someone who is perfect, why would anyone who is watching me believe that we need a Savior?

Today, I am walking out onto the field of life with my head help high. Oh, I still have the same disappointments and failures. These have not changed. But now I see them as opportunities to connect with others, not secrets to hide away and allow shame to take over my heart. I am sure I will stumble, even fall at times, but I will continue to play the game. Will you join me in the arena?