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Vulnerability is the ability to be transparent with others; that is, the condition in which we wear our hearts on our sleeves. It is an honest expression of your most personal thoughts and feelings and a willingness to share yourself with others without fear or judgment. For most people, it is synonymous with weakness or exposure. But genuine vulnerability takes strength and gratitude. As a small child, my grandma used to teach me this principle. That along with tying my shoes, reading books, and serving others, I needed to express my feelings with others in clearness, regardless of how I was feeling. Unfortunately, my first experience with this did not go too well:
I recall telling a family member that I did not love a Christmas gift they got me because grandma always taught me to be honest. And while I appreciated their effort, I was not going to keep something crazy expensive if I was never going to use it. Five minutes later, that person threw a tantrum, and I wondered what I did wrong. Grandma always told me to practice vulnerability amid material things, so why did this backfire?
In our culture, many people long to be authentic with others. Yet most are not. Like this instance with a family member, they fear rejection, judgment, hurting feelings, and upsetting others over sincerity. And so, like myself, they easily slip out of the vulnerability habit and into one of self-seclusion and hiding. Before they know it, they are not sharing their real self with anyone for fear that too much of the real them will somehow damage everyone else.
But hiding our vulnerability does not make us any more real than Barbie with her plastic arms and legs. And refraining from telling the truth for fear of hurt feelings creates unrealistic expectations that are impossible to maintain.
So how do we learn to practice vulnerability amidst a material season? How do we become sincere among a world that acts like they want the truth, but only when it is their version?
1. Embrace Vulnerability with God, Yourself, and Others
For Christians, Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of humility, grace, and vulnerability. In perfection, God sent His only Son to die on a cross for our sins. Fully, God and man, Jesus embraced a lowly estate of human brokenness so that we could someday experience freedom through His eternal victory. But to be like Jesus, we too have to be willing to adopt His customs, behaviors, and authenticity with others.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 of the English Standard Version, Paul wrote, “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, ESV).
Surrounded by a world obsessed with wealth, lust, beauty, and lies, materialism offers the seducing lie that to be genuine is to be what society asks of us. But Christ calls us to humble ourselves before Himself, ourselves, and others so that when we are weak and realize the frailty of our faults, that is when we will truly be made strong. Simply telling God, “I cannot do this alone,” requires a posture of humble surrender. And asking others to pray for these struggles strengthens the Kingdom at hand.
As James 5:16 articulates, “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, ESV).
While being authentic does not always include sharing our sins, it certainly includes sharing our hearts with others.
2. Get Rid of the Fear of Rejection
When I was eight years old, I learned that I had a bad habit of fearing others more than I respected God. While we are called to revere the Lord as our greatest priority, I remember wanting to please every person in my life. So much so, I began to lose who I was. And because I desperately craved friends, a boyfriend, and acceptance from the world, I quickly developed the fear of rejection.
But vulnerability takes the chance of being rejected and replaces it with knowing that being genuine surpasses anything botox, a thousand friends, or the best angled Instagram posts could ever buy.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 of the English Standard Version reminds us that when Christ died for us, He did so with the vulnerability that we might partake in a relationship with Him. Jesus bled on a cross for those who would choose to follow Him and those who would eternally reject Him and spit in His face.
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, ESV).
Practicing vulnerability amidst a material-obsessed world requires us to share ourselves with others and value Christ’s rejection above all others. Jesus did not die for you so you could live for someone else; He died for you so that you would live and find the fullest of life in Him.
A Final Word
While it is easy to write that being vulnerable requires us to be authentic with God, ourselves, and others, and to fear His judgment above all else, doing so is a much different story. I will be honest in saying that sharing genuine affections and emotions is not easy. It takes a lot of guts to tell others how you are feeling. It takes courage to counter a countercultural world that screams more of us and less of others is the way to go.
In Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s interaction with his nephew inspires us to choose vulnerability over materialism. Today, I encourage you to find value in things materialism cannot buy. You will not find them in a store or at 50% off. But you will find them in the Word of Life that prods your heart:
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, ‘God bless it!’”