The Bible tells us to “buy the truth and sell it not” but sometime last year, I bought a lie that cost me dearly. I have come to find out that there is a hard thing in relationships and it is vulnerability; just thinking about it scares me to my bones. Vulnerability is the practice of intentional openness and it is an exercise that leaves you bare; it is the audacity to be your true self.
There is this habit I have (still working on getting better) – if someone hurts me, I close myself off. Even when I can obviously see that the person is genuinely repentant or that it was really a mistake, I still would close myself off. It turned me into this person devoid of joy; to muster up even a fake smile was too much work. My residence was my head. I had little or no patience with people and the smallest things irritated me.
I was becoming hard.
And I did not trust anyone.
This led me down a dark path where I started hurting people that genuinely cared for me and when some of them responded in a way I felt wasn’t ideal; my hypothesis was confirmed – they were no good from the start. I actually expected people around me to adjust their own lives to make me happy. My unhappiness was someone else’s fault.
This downward spiral continued until June last year when I hurt my husband terribly by doing something we had agreed on never to do, and it nearly ended my marriage. Still I was adamant. I flipped him off because in my mind, he just confirmed a bias I had in my mind towards men.
Do you know that it’s possible to have a belief that you are not aware of? It is when certain situations arise that you would realise that you have a belief that is contradictory to who you are. Up until June last year, I did not believe that I could treat another human being with such disdain and that I had a particular belief about men.
Then I sunk into depression. It was around that time that I stopped writing on the blog. I just couldn’t bring myself to share with anyone because I felt I was a fraud. I mean, how could I hold two contrary schools of thought within me and still feel I had the right to talk to people about the things of God.
The Season of Healing
God, being the good Father that He is, found a way to turn this bad situation around for my good. There’s an interesting passage in the Bible that says “God sets the solitary in families” and that is exactly what God did for me.
God put me in a family where the women were strong and vulnerable.
I saw that it was possible to love without reservations, to be a pillar of strength to those around you while being vulnerable with them. The right family heals.
I am still a work in progress but I can share some lessons I’ve learnt so far;
- God is good. This sounds like something everyone should know; yes, a lot of people say this every time. But do you really believe in the goodness of God? The goodness of God doesn’t change through the seasons of our life; it is the one constant when everything changes. Think back to when Adam and Eve sinned; yes they sinned and the very terrible consequence was that they became aware of their nakedness and couldn’t remain in the garden anymore. God covered their nakedness and set His redemptive plan in motion. Whatever happens, never ever forget that God is good.
- We have an example of vulnerability in Christ. God came down in human form and became subject to every aspect of human life; it’s like God “exposed” Himself. Think about it; the God of the whole earth decided to become like His creature so as to redeem them. And I also learnt about levels of vulnerability from Jesus – there was the multitude, the seventy, the 12 disciples, the 3 (Peter, James and John) and then John. Jesus was His authentic self at all times but He had different levels of intimacy.
- We are all humans. Good things happen in life and bad things happen in life; good people do stupid things sometimes, while nasty people do nice things at times. People can be unpredictable sometimes but since I have chosen to be both vulnerable and strong, I am getting better at absorbing the shock of human behaviour.
- There is a point to vulnerability. Like I said earlier, we have an example of vulnerability in Christ; and there was a point to God becoming human – He wanted to redeem us. My vulnerability must point to a redemptive purpose,otherwise it’s an adventure in foolishness. Be open to the experiences of other people like God did (by experiencing what it means to be human); this means being present to people you’re in relationships with and genuinely sharing their ups and downs.
- It is important to be kind to yourself. It’s easy to celebrate the good in yourself and really hard to come to terms with negative or ambivalent feelings. Sometimes you won’t have everything sorted, it’s really okay to be out of sorts at times but what is more important is to accept yourself first and be kind. Don’t shame yourself and don’t hate yourself for what you’ve done or haven’t done. I am not excusing bad behaviour but if you sink into the hole of guilt and shame, it makes getting over that behaviour really hard. Sometimes we feel shame but there is no change in behaviour; be kind to yourself and forgive yourself fast.
- Vulnerability helps you lead from who you are. When you are your true self and display vulnerability, people gravitate towards you and start learning from you. They look to you; you notice that people start asking you questions because they want to be like you.
We avoid vulnerability in our relationships out of fear – fear of heartbreak, fear that the relationship will end abruptly. The truth is that every relationship will end, either through death or pursuit of different interests; but oh, how much you will miss out if you close yourself off the entire duration of the relationship.
You can be vulnerable and pursue intimacy in your relationships without losing who you are. Choose to love and trust without boundaries today.