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Vulnerability: Rebrand Vulnerability

Yesterday, I asked a group of my seventh grade students one question and waited for their responses: "What is vulnerability to you?"

They shouted out answers like, "Need! Weak! Defenseless! Homeless! Illegal!”

I was taken aback, but then again, how could I really be shocked?

Then, I immediately felt to use it as a teachable moment to share the misconceptions of vulnerability and what vulnerability really is – hoping that if even just one of them took something away from that moment, I would have made a difference.

These are typical answers for most people in our world today, not only children. Words like those that my students used - need, weak, defenseless - have become synonymous with vulnerability.

As a culture, we despise vulnerability. We look down on vulnerability with contempt. Our culture equates vulnerability to something shameful.

Why is that? “Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure which does not make it sound too enticing,” as Brene Brown puts it. But she also explains that “When you believe vulnerability is a weakness, you believe that feeling is a weakness.”

From my study of vulnerability, I began to look at Jesus. Even Jesus was touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). He allowed a deep intimacy and connection by feeling the infirmities of those around Him.

So, to be invulnerable is to make ourselves untouchable in the eyes of others. It is the “vain attempt to be something we are not and to close off our understanding of the grief of others” (David Whyte, 2015). Refusing our vulnerability closes us off to the compassion of others toward us and for our compassion toward others.

May God restore to the pureness of our nature in Christ.

Vulnerability is our nature as finite beings, and to deny vulnerability is to deny our very nature. To deny vulnerability is to deny the deepest places of intimacy that God wants us to experience.

For the past year and a half, as far as I can track correctly, I have been going through a journey of intentionally being vulnerable, sharing more than I naturally feel comfortable sharing, exposing some of the most hidden parts of my life to those I trust within the context of purposeful healing and growth.

I am learning that vulnerability builds connection, and we are wired for connection. No, seriously! Neurologists explain that our brains are wired to connect with those around us – that as neurons fire together, they wire together forming bonds of connection.

My prayer is that God gives us safe relationships to be vulnerable and build connection. That in our marriages, we would be vulnerable. In our parenting with our children, we would be vulnerable. In our friendships, we would be vulnerable. In ministry, we would have opportunities for vulnerability.

Love covers the exposure of faults. When there is the love of God in a relationship, love should cover those vulnerabilities making it a safe place to open up and share.

Janice Sanders

P.S. I have so much more on this that I will be sharing. I am on a journey with God, and Holy Spirit is teaching me new depths.

Quote Reference: Whyte, D. (2015). Consolations. Langley, WA: Many Rivers Press.

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