The strongman wept and lifted a giant weight off his chest
today at 8:00 am
Risk an unpopular viewpoint and the blog-o-sphere erupts with molten malice; dreaded Twitter monsters lurk behind their venomous hash tags. The twisted values of the social media world deliver a clear message: “Why would you willingly expose yourself to being emotionally attacked and wounded? Dude, do not ever admit to being vulnerable!”
It is sad advice. It cripples rather than protects. It isolates you. It shrinks your ability to feel, and to love and be loved.
Being vulnerable is not a weakness, it is a strength. It is courage, manifest and unrestrained. It is the ability to feel; to experience happiness and pain, love and despair; and the capacity to convey those feelings and emotions.
I have been in many a sharing circle, both as witness and focus of the tableau, when men and women have allowed their suffering to surface. Their tears, our tears, washed us clean, revealed our humanness, validated our existence, empowered us to love deeper and grow stronger. It is in those moments when we are most human, putting our differences aside and standing together as one, arm in arm with those you never thought you could.
If you are carrying a heavy weight, staggering under the burden, it’s a relief when someone comes along to help you. The more who offer their help, the lighter the load. Are you “weaker” as a result? Isn’t it easier to carry the weight now that you don’t have to do so all by yourself?
Maybe the answer is not so simple; it probably depends on how the help is offered. If the assistance comes with a haughty “you’re too weak to carry this alone,” it will probably elicit more resentment than appreciation. But if the person pitches in and says, “wow, I know how heavy that is, I wasn’t strong enough to carry it by myself either,” you’d probably be grateful for the extra pair of hands.
It’s the difference between “teaching/lecturing” and “sharing/experiencing.”
When I lead workshops for men and women, I’m careful not to “teach” per se. To make a point I try to tell a personal story that illustrates it. I share what I experienced in a way that others can identify with, and personally ‘live’ the outcome. I am willing to show my vulnerability!
When people try to help you by telling you what to do it’s harder to make a connection. And without a connection, trust can’t be established.
If the ‘teachers’ are willing to share real parts of themselves with you – willing to be vulnerable – sharing more than their intelligence but their honesty and openness, the essence of who they are – this makes them relatable; human; trustworthy.
If the teachers are willing to expose pieces of their lives, you will feel safe to do the same. It is their vulnerability that creates connection. It puts us in the same place and is a reminder that all of us have failings, and none of us are inherently flawed. It takes courage on both sides: feeling safe to share deep feelings; trusting the sincerity of the narrative; promising confidentiality.
To be vulnerable is to be courageous; it opens us up to life rather than being fearful of it. Embracing vulnerability allows us to feel more connected with other people, makes us more emotionally available and able to be more authentic and honest with ourselves and others. Our vulnerability empowers us to love deeper and grow stronger.