As a believer I have always been amazed at the masks that Christians wear. The appearance that everything is fine and they are doing great when just the opposite is true. As a leader I have worked hard to live a life that has integrity. That the inside is what is being expressed outside – my inner life is expressed in how I live, relate, and am known. That my walk as a leader and a believer measures up to the talk.
As we grow into adulthood being open and honest about who we really are becomes harder and harder. There are all the expectations that others have of us. There is the apparent need to hide any deficiencies and places in our inner being where we come up short. We have suffered rejection at the hands of people who were our friends. We have been torn apart by criticisms, some justified and others not so, that others have spoken about who we are and how we present that person as we interface with the world around us.
Most of the time we approach life with our guard up not allowing most people to see and know the real us. We are not living our lives openly for others to see. We are not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This occurs for three basic reasons:
1> We are not comfortable with emotions and we equate vulnerability with weakness
2> Our experiences in life have taught us that vulnerability is actually dangerous
3> We really do not know the real person on the inside because we have lived an unexamined life and thus lived life on the surface and without being real
If the truth were known – being real has allowed others to inflict a great deal of pain and so we no longer see most situations and relationships – including our involvement in church – as a safe place to be ourselves. We enter with our guard up and our real, inner person hidden and protected. The church has not been, or appears not to be, a place that is emotionally and physically safe enough to be vulnerable, open and real.
The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It is being yourself in the situations and relationships that you encounter on a daily basis. It is speaking your opinion on a matter regardless of what others might think or say. It is dressing the way you want to regardless of the norms for your family, your church, your community. It is expressing the real you regardless of the opposition or the blowback that you might receive.
Vulnerability means risking criticism and rejection. It means being prepared to lose friends and the acceptance of others who will not like what they see and hear. It may mean standing alone not only for what you believe but, more importantly, who you are and how you are expressing the real you.
Vulnerability is not weakness; it is actually a measure of courage. It is being willing to show up and be real – to be seen and heard when we can’t control the outcome. If you are looking for safety then you will not risk being real and thus vulnerable.
If you have spent your life trying to fit in and be who others expect you to be or what you think others expect of you even if they don’t – then you will have trouble being vulnerable. Why? Because you don’t even know who you really are. You have become who everyone else wants you to be instead of who God created you to be. Thus you will never be real and thus vulnerable because you don’t know the real you on the inside. You are not fully aware of who you really are. An ancient philosopher once said, “An unexamined life if not worth living.” Many people, even Christians, hide from themselves fearful of what they might find if they look inside and are honest with themselves.
When you are first discovering who you really are and making changes on the outside to express what you are discovering about yourself on the inside, it is hard to be real and vulnerable. Why? Simply because it is so new and so raw. But, as you become more aware of who you are and secure in that reality then you must let your guard down, take your various masks off, stop pretending, and just be real. You have to live life openly and in a way that you are vulnerable.
Every human being wants to know themselves fully and to be fully known by others, at least one other. Non-judgmental acceptance of who you really are is a gift you can only receive when you leave your safe place and risk being your true self with others. Vulnerability is hard, it can be dangerous, it may hurt, but it is essential to living a life of integrity and being fulfilled as a person and a believer.