The beauty of vulnerability

Our culture tends to idolize the macho, the tough, the strong, those that never share or display their wounded hearts. We instinctively hide our vulnerable parts in order to keep those tender and wounded places safe.

This is sometimes a necessity because there are many times and places where it would not be safe to let our vulnerability show. But when we find those moments of safety where we can risk letting down our guards and letting others in, our vulnerability often becomes a magnet to others who discover in us the freedom to expose their own vulnerability. Giving each other glimpses behind the masks that we so often wear allows us to see a bit of the true beauty that each human being holds.

I just got off the phone with my dad, who has lost a good friend that he’s had for over 40 years to heart disease. My dad was raised in a generation where men were taught not to show emotion, and he generally does not expose much. But as we talked for a long time tonight, and he shared story after story about his friend, his friend’s family, and some of the circumstances around his friend’s death and the impact that will have on those around him, both his sadness and his love for his friend shown in, through, and around his words.

In his own way, he exposed a little bit of the vulnerability of his grief to me, and my own heart responded in tenderness at the glimpse of his big heart that his grief displays. His opening up to me opened my own heart to him in a fresh way because I recognize the courage it takes to be vulnerable, and I recognize the similarity of grief that we all encounter as part of the human experience. (Which is not to compare my experiences of grief to his, but to say that it reminds me of ways in which all humans suffer wounding and pain in this journey called life.)

Likewise, my closest friendships are with people who have the courage to share their vulnerable places with me. Not only does it tell me that these people are safe enough for me to share my own wounds with, it gives me that glimpse behind the mask to see the beauty of another human soul in all of its glory and woundedness and holiness. In those moments, I can’t help but soften toward that person in a way that dismantles my own defenses and allows me to reach out in loving kindness to embrace a wounded soul.

I am still learning to risk letting my own vulnerability show. I do try to find safe places before I even consider risking it, but when I find those places and am willing to take the risk, I repeatedly find my sharing of my vulnerability to be met with a similar kindness and compassion in ways that bring such tremendous healing just to be seen and acknowledged. It doesn’t make it any less scary to share, but it does help bolster my courage to share even in the face of the fear (if it seems sufficiently safe).

So I find beauty in the soul-glimpses I get of those who share their vulnerability with me and I find beauty in the tender responses I get from my willingness to expose my own vulnerability. It may be counter-cultural, but I have learned to value vulnerability much more strongly than macho toughness.

I suspect I’m not alone in this. How do you respond when someone exposes their vulnerable places or their woundedness to you?

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

6 thoughts on “The beauty of vulnerability

    • Oh yes! I’ve definitely had that reaction to the experience of having others reveal their vulnerability to me. Their courage does provoke a sense of awe. Great response! Thanks for sharing and reminding me of my own reaction in this way.

    • Yes, it is indeed an honor, isn’t it? The gentleness just seems to come naturally (at least for many of us) when faced with a vulnerable soul. Thanks for sharing!

  1. I’m getting better at it. I used to run and hide when people exposed their vulnerable side. But now that I write the blog and want people to read it (thus exposing my own vulnerable side) I feel that it’s easier to be less awkward around people who, for example, are crying. Like I said, I’m working on it.

    • Good point! I have my moments when I want to run and hide from it, too. I hadn’t thought about that. I’ll have to start paying attention to what the difference is (for me) when someone’s vulnerability makes me want to run and hide vs. when it brings forth tenderness. Hmmmmm …

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