I’d always been quite familiar with the word “vulnerability.” My wife seemed to find a way to weave it into our conversations on a regular basis. It was almost as if she was trying to tell me that I needed to show more "vulnerability,” or something along those lines. So one day I decided to look up the word in the dictionary and find out what it actually meant. I would discover it defined as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
Well, that sure didn't sound like anything I was interested in trying! The whole idea actually kind of scared me. I saw it as a sign of weakness. I thought that I’d be better off to just toughen up. I needed to be a real man. I needed to keep my weaknesses a secret. And I really didn’t want to bother other people with my problems because I knew they had their own to deal with. It also seemed like such a risky thing to do. I mean, what if I opened up to someone about my struggles and they didn't like me? Or what if they made fun of me? What if they didn’t believe me? What if they started telling others about my issues?
I continued on with his same attitude and approach toward vulnerability after my brain injury. I wasn’t being honest with others about my new struggles and what had suddenly become my “new normal.” I didn't want to give people the impression I'd grown soft and that that I couldn't handle things on my own anymore. I was worried people would think less of me if they knew that I wasn't as strong, smart, or independent as I'd once been. However, this game of charades soon started to wear me down and I began to grow tired of trying to hide the truth from other people. I didn’t want to continue acting like the person that I no longer was. It was at this point that I started to think my wife might have been on to something before. Maybe being vulnerable was something I needed to give a try - so that’s what I finally decided to do!
And, you know, living a more vulnerable, honest and transparent life has ultimately proven to be a much better way for me to live. It’s given me a sense of freedom that I‘d never experienced before and I believe it’s helped me become a better husband, father, son, brother, and friend.
Now, with all that being said, please don't assume I have this whole “living vulnerably” thing completely mastered. I didn't magically change overnight. Vulnerability is a relatively new concept for me so I am definitely a work in progress. I still think my natural tendency is to hide my weaknesses and I continue to spend way too much time and energy doing this. But being more vulnerable is something I will continue to work on and something I’m confident I can get better at.
In addition to the personal freedom I’ve found from living more vulnerable, I’ve also seen how it seems to help other people. When people recognize you as being "imperfect" or someone who has struggles, they are much more likely to open up about theirs. When you become more honest with people about your problems, they will often say things like, "You struggle with that, too," or "I thought it was just me!" There just seems to be a much deeper level of connection when you know someone is going through some of the same things you are and when someone understands a little bit more about where you're coming from.
Pastor Craig Groeschel once said, "We might impress people with our strengths, but we connect with people through our weaknesses." In my “past life,” I would have never thought this to be a true statement. But I do now! I’ve learned that we don’t have to hide our weaknesses because connecting with others is so much more important than impressing them!