People hide behind their words. We do it with each other whenever we simply answer, “I’m fine” to the ever-popular question, “How are you?” On a grander scale we do it every day with our spouses and loved ones when we share our feelings, but not our vulnerabilities.
It’s not unusual for me to be open with my husband about my irritation when he hogs the remote. And I never hold back my disappointment with my kids if they don’t appreciate my help. In fact, sometimes I’m even open with my friends about my fears and worries. But am I ever vulnerable with these same people? Not as much as you might think. In fact, I think most of us delude ourselves into thinking we are more vulnerable than we really are.
It’s interesting to note that the definition of vulnerable is: “Susceptible to physical or emotional injury; susceptible to attack; open to censure or criticism.” It’s not simply a run-down of what we think and how we feel. It involves a deep surrender and personal sacrifice.
In other words, we can say that we are open about how we feel, but if we do not open ourselves to inspection, or even worse, criticism, then we are not being vulnerable. Being open about your feelings is like opening your door and greeting a friend. But being vulnerable is like opening the door to that same friend, asking him to come in, look around, and then letting him rearrange the furniture!
We can be open by simply being aware of our feelings and being honest enough to share them. Of course, that means that I can edit out certain feelings that might not be as flattering to me. I can share openly about what I want the hearer to hear, and avoid the trouble spots.
But to be vulnerable, we must be willing to reveal parts of ourselves that might be considered weak and inferior. Being vulnerable requires humility and a willingness to face pain and rejection. That’s why vulnerability is so hard and so rare.
I say all this because vulnerability, not just openness, is a requirement for any worthwhile and deep relationship. I’ll go one further, in my experience, vulnerability is a requirement for a fulfilled life.