Someone once told me that vulnerability is what we most want to see in others and least want to be seen in ourselves. Becoming vulnerable can be one of the most difficult and uncomfortable experiences. Exposure of secrets, mistakes, flaws, and sins leave a person open to scrutiny which is hard to bear. We seem to be set up for all kinds of personal loss. Reputations painstakingly built up over long periods of time are rendered precarious or come crashing down in unmendable pieces. The grief which follows is almost impossible to bear.
We live in an age where it is increasingly difficult or even impossible to escape from who we are. Rabbi Moshe Scheiner recently taught that suicide rates are increasing in adults partly due to the dynamic of transparency created by instant background checks on the internet. Good names are destroyed every day. Children who suffer the loss of character due to perceptions of peers, bullying and cyber victimization can feel so trapped and hopeless that they consider or commit suicide. Becoming vulnerable can create the deepest feelings of shame when those whom we trust wound us.
When we are grieving we become vulnerable. In fact, it has been said that grief and vulnerability go together hand-in-hand. Either can come first but neither walk alone. The word vulnerable comes from the Latin word vulnera which means to wound. In our most wounded times, we are laid bare. Lost is our stature and resolve. No longer can we appear strong and self-reliant. Our pain is visible to everyone. This begs a rather obvious solution. Just never allow yourself to become vulnerable and then the grief would remain private. manageable, and controlled. Voilà. Unfortunately, there is a horrible downside to that. If we don’t allow vulnerability, we will never experience authentic friendships, belonging, trust, or love. What we all have in common is our brokenness and when the risk of vulnerability is rejected true connections are impossible. If all of this is true then how could vulnerability and grief be so discouraged in our society? I guess because it is just so hard to go there.
Perhaps we could find some answers from Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, author, and popular TED Talk personality. Dr. Brown has made it her mission to explore the power of vulnerability. She emphases how important it is to dare greatly in order to live life fully and to achieve success. And more can be discovered in the spiritual wisdom of Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation who tells us that vulnerability is the path to wholeness and holiness.
In the final analysis, we have to come to the realization that it is not only okay to grieve and to become vulnerable, but it is also necessary. If we are to heal we must be touched. The work can never be accomplished alone. There are big risks associated with all of this to be certain. But from our perceived weakness will come a new kind of strength. Not the strength of the invulnerable but the strength of love. For, as scripture tells us, the one who stumbles “shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary,” (See Isaiah 40:31).