“To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.”
I recently posted about vulnerability and my promise to properly channel it. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown defines vulnerability as accurately as I think I could. I said as much as the above quote when I described my heart and openness and the need to maintain these things in a healthy and productive way..
Part of starting over means opening yourself up to the fact that you’re a flawed human being. Those flaws don’t necessarily define you, but they limit you if you’re closed to the truth of their existence.
Brown defines vulnerability as, “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” These three things are critical when choosing to recreate your life in a positive way. I’ve reflected spiritually on my need to embrace uncertainty, and how much that fear of uncertainty has limited me. Cursing the future and the unknown is only a waste of time and energy.
Your energy is better spent on greater risks for even greater rewards, knowing that the risks you take will bring you the unexpected. Wearing your heart upon your sleeve (i.e., emotional exposure) is one of the greatest risks you can take as few people will ever appreciate it to its fullest. There are those who will gratefully embrace your love and return it in kind, but you’ll never meet them if you don’t expose yourself emotionally.
“I want to experience your vulnerability but I don’t want to be vulnerable.”
Openness is not roadkill for vultures. It’s not open season for gossip-mongers. Openness isn’t an excuse to dump your baggage onto others and overwhelm them. Openness shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen.
You don’t get to pick and choose what you are and aren’t open about. Let me clarify. I’m not advocating the oversharing of a thing. Don’t do that. Some things need time to blossom in your heart before you put them on display.
What I’m getting at is that you can’t choose to only be open about the things you feel comfortable sharing. If you expect people to trust your sincerity and authenticity, you’ve got to be genuine with them. Don’t share just what’s easy, but what is meaningful.
The Lion & the Mouse
A Lion lay asleep in the forest, his great head resting on his paws. A timid little Mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and in her fright and haste to get away, ran across the Lion’s nose. Roused from his nap, the Lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.
“Spare me!” begged the poor Mouse. “Please let me go and someday I will surely repay you.”
The Lion was much amused to think that a Mouse could ever help him. But he was generous and finally let the Mouse go.
Some days later, while stalking his prey in the forest, the Lion was caught in the toils of a hunter’s net. Unable to free himself, he filled the forest with his angry roaring. The Mouse knew the voice and quickly found the Lion struggling in the net. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, she gnawed it until it parted, and soon the Lion was free.
“You laughed when I said I would repay you,” said the Mouse. “Now you see that even a Mouse can help a Lion.”
A kindness is never wasted.
The Real Thorn in the Lion’s Paw
Now, in this particular iteration of Aesop’s fable, the lion is trapped in a net. I recall somewhere before reading about a thorn in his paw. Net or thorn, these things both serve the same purpose. They hinder this proud beast from progress.
I say the real thorn in the lion’s paw is his ego and pride. Aesop was pretty transparent in his fables, and the selection of the stereotypical, proud lion was purposeful. Of course, the timid mouse serves as an intentional contrast to this arrogance, too.
You may be wondering why I’ve included this fable when I was just pondering on vulnerability. Well, as Brown discusses, “Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work [and] attention….Trust isn’t a grand gesture,” but a mouse’s persistent, courageous gnawing at a tangled net.
Although the powerful, capable lion can usually go it alone, even he is laid low by the trappings of life’s unpredictability. He, blinded by his arrogance, assumed that very little could harm him. Most of us go through life with a false confidence, presuming that if we never open up, we can never be hurt ourselves.
The lion indicates otherwise. In his one moment of generosity with freeing the mouse, he opens up his heart ever so slightly. In our own lives, if we let the quiet workings of God into our hearts, it’s impossible to conceive of the kindness He returns.
I mean that grand gestures are great, but we’re not all lions. And even those of us who have our moments of weakness, where pride and arrogance trip us up. In those moments which necessitate humility, I implore you to open yourself up.
Pour out your heart to a trustworthy friend. Be humble and ask for help. Otherwise, you might find the net only becomes more tangled the more you struggle.