Wow! The Link Between Love & Vulnerability
Love is what makes the world go round or so the song says. The “love theme” is common in books, movies, TV, music, advertising, and more. We long to be truly loved!
There’s another important component to love that is often overlooked. Without vulnerability, you won’t enjoy close relationships or the joy of being loved.
Vulnerability is risky. That’s part of why we shy away from it. It’s one of the major reasons we run into trouble in marriage and significant relationships. And it’s a contributing factor to our challenges in leadership too.
Fear Begets Fear
I’ve shared previously how we all have a Fear Monster – a reoccurring feeling that we dread might be true. For me, that feeling is “I don’t matter,” but for you it may be something else like…
When operating in fear, you inevitably trigger the fears of those around you. Before you know it, you are deep in fear’s vortex and everything feels chaotic with no clue how you got there.
Sadly, we step into the vortex of fear most often with those we love the most. Perhaps you’ve been there too! One of the tell-tale signs you’ve entered the vortex is having the same old fight around different topics.
When my husband and I were newlyweds and setting up our kitchen, we had our very first fight. That fight was over where the Coffee mate® would live. He wanted to store it near the coffee mugs and filters. I wanted it stored with other food items. Proximity to all things coffee related versus like with like.
At first blush, this fight appears to be over location of Coffee mate®, but nothing could be further from the truth. This fight was really about my Fear Monster (I don’t matter) and his Fear Monster (I am incompetent) battling it out.
The more he pushed for his location, the more I felt like I didn’t matter, the more I pointed out the flaw in his location, the more incompetent he felt. The bummer: when Fear Monsters are warring, no one wins!
In case you are wondering, the Coffee mate® lived with the coffee things.
All these years later, we don’t use Coffee mate® at all, but we do still bump into our Fear Monster’s clashing from time to time. At least now we know what the REAL battle is!
We both know that leaning into who God created us to be is the remedy to fear, and the best way to deal with those fear vortex moments. However, God’s been revealing another layer of the remedy. It’s not just leaning into the “Loving” person God created me to be or you leaning into the “Authentic” person He created you to be. It’s about leaning into whoever God created me to be in a “vulnerable AND loving” way. Or for you it might be a “vulnerable AND courageous” way, depending on who God created you to be.
Fear’s remedy is to lean into whoever God created you to be, coupled with vulnerability. In order to do that, it’s essential for you to receive God’s love and believe that He is for you!
Here are some common examples of who God may have created you to be.
Back To The Beginning
We know that God is love – that’s what I John 4:8 tells us. Later in the same chapter it tells us that God loved us first – that’s a risky and vulnerable step!
What’s really surprising is that God loves us despite our numerous flaws and failings! He sees all us – that’s what Hebrew 4:13 tells us. It says…
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.
Vulnerability and the Love Chapter
Search the Scriptures – it doesn’t actually use the word vulnerable in the context I’m talking about and it doesn’t use the word vulnerability. However, when I read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, it does a pretty decent job of describing vulnerability! Is says that love is…
- Protecting (others, not you!)
And love is not…
- Easily angered
- Keeping record of wrongs
- Something that delights in evil
Pause and think about how each of those characteristics is intertwined with vulnerability!
One way to think about vulnerability:
Sharing the sides of yourself that you are uncertain about or not confident about and allowing others to respond.
That takes guts, right?
Brené Brown describes vulnerability as the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
Isn’t it interesting that uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure are experienced with love AND fear?
I want to be abundantly clear. You are NOT meant to be vulnerable with everyone! I know that God has put Himself out there in that way, but you are not God.
You and I run into trouble in our lives when we resist sharing ourselves with the people we are supposed to be close to. And because we don’t, we don’t get our needs met, we deal with a whole lot of unnecessary conflict, and it even holds us back in the work place!
Vulnerability Isn’t Weak!
I don’t know about you, but somehow, I’ve equated vulnerability with weakness. In an effort to appear strong and courageous, you and I hide our true selves.
Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage. -Brené Brown
There’s no way to know how people will respond if you choose to be vulnerable. That’s why it takes courage and you could say trust in God too!
Vulnerability Isn’t Just For Your Personal Life!
We tend to think of vulnerability as being something we do in our personal lives. Perhaps it’s reserved for our spouse and maybe a few close friends. But here’s what surfaced out of Brené Brown’s research:
“Vulnerability is the prerequisite for all of the daring leadership behaviors. If we can’t handle uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure in a way that aligns with our values and furthers our organizational goals we can’t lead.” –Atlas Of the Heart, by Brené Brown p14.
As a leader, if you aren’t able to open up, ask for feedback, or admit you don’t have all the answers, your effectiveness is hampered! When a leader is able to operate in that way it’s vulnerability in action. And that vulnerability develops trust and confidence in you as a leader.
Again, don’t hear me wrong. It’s not spilling your deepest darkest secrets at work – no one needs that.
It’s about inviting and receiving feedback and leading in a humble and approachable way. From that starting place, then others will naturally follow you!
No Easy Thing!
Recognizing that there’s room to grow in the area of vulnerability is the first step! The next step is a bit scarier: practicing! As I’ve been working on growing in this area myself, I’ve realized the need to tune in and pay attention to what I’m feeling and needing or it’s impossible for me to be vulnerable.
If you’re ready to truly step into being the fearless person God created you to be, here are a few ways to practice being vulnerable:
- Start by first being more vulnerable and honest with YOU! What you are really feeling? What do you need? Journaling is an excellent way to process and explore your thoughts and feelings.
- When someone asks you a question, take your time and explore what you are thinking and feeling so that when you reply you are able to do it in a transparent way that’s appropriate.
- When something upsets you, don’t just get mad, describe your feelings in a kind way. What’s hurting you.? What’s upsetting you? What’s making you sad?
- We often think of hiding our negative feelings, but often we hide the really good ones too! What has your spouse done that you really like? What are your people doing right? What do you appreciate about them?
- Pay attention to when you are being passive aggressive rather than vulnerable. Have you drifted into the silent treatment? Are you giving the cold shoulder? Avoiding someone?
- When you share your feelings, be sure you start with an “I statement” like “I feel angry when you ___________ and what I need is for you to ________________.” It’s so tempting to start with a you statement, but that’s not being vulnerable, is it?
Most of us didn’t have people in our lives who modeled vulnerability well, but what’s beautiful is that it’s something we are capable of learning and the benefits are life-changing! Not only does it strengthen our relationships and lead to greater intimacy, it also increases our self-awareness and boosts our confidence. And vulnerability naturally causes us to rely more on God. And from that vulnerable place we show up more authentically, it invites others in, and it expands our lives in healthy and good ways.
Are you up to the challenge of walking more fully AND vulnerably in who God created you to be?