Vulnerability is hard, it is scary, and sometimes it even seems like it isn’t worth it. Personally, I have experience all of these things; hardship in vulnerability, fear in vulnerability, and worthlessness in vulnerability. By no means am I saying that vulnerability is easy, but what I am going to say is that it is so important.
Over the course of this semester in one of my classes, we read through the book Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen, and something that Nouwen and our class discussed was vulnerability. Nouwen talks about drinking our cups in community with one another. In other words, coming alongside one another and doing life together. Taking part of each others joys, sorrows and all that falls in between the two. Part of that though, is being vulnerable and expressing these struggles, hardships, sorrows and joys. And the other part of that is being empathetic, understanding and loving to one another no matter what the contents of another persons cup is.
The journey of being vulnerable looks different for each one of us, but I am sure that some of my experience will resinate with each of you in some way (which is why I am sharing it with you.) For me, as I mentioned earlier, vulnerability has looked three ways for me: hard, scary, and worthless.
Vulnerability is hard. I feel that it is this way because there are so many unknowns that come along with being vulnerable such as “what will people think of me if I tell them __________?” or “What if I tell them __________, but they don’t understand?” or “What if I tell them __________ and they judge me for my struggles?” There are so many questions that arise when attempting to be vulnerable with one another. And this is where scary comes in- you never know what is going to happen when you are vulnerable with a person or a group of people. I know that I have definitely experienced this before. You don’t know how they are going to react. You don’t know what they will say, and that is scary. This fear arises within us, making us afraid to be vulnerable, which then leads us to believe that being vulnerable isn’t worth it. It leads us to think that we don’t need to be vulnerable because we are already hurt so deeply, that we do not want or need to be hurt more. Can any of you relate? But do you know what else this fear does? It makes us afraid to walk alongside one another. It steals the experience of true community from us.
In reading this book, I was able to develop a stance and my feelings on what community in my life has looked like, why it is important, and how we lack in community. Part of that lacking is vulnerability. We need vulnerability to have deep, meaningful community. But these fears, uncertainties and these doubts of the worth of vulnerability make it so difficult to do. But, another thing that makes it difficult is that these fears, uncertainties and doubts did not just fall out of thin air- they exist because of previous experience. The way that we have approached what is in our brothers and sisters cups have given them a reason to steer away from vulnerability. The way we view others struggles and approach them have made people shy away from sharing those things because of the responses they have received in prior experiences.
Guys, we need community. We were created to desire community. And to need community is also to need vulnerability. I believe that you cannot have one without the other. I believe that they go hand in hand.
Yes, being vulnerable is hard. Yes it is scary. Yes, at times it does feel worthless. But, the community that can come with vulnerability is so satisfying.
Earlier, I mentioned that we need to be empathetic, understanding and loving to one another, no matter what the contents of another persons cup is. I cannot stress this enough. Everyone’s journey is different, and then so is their cups, but that doesn’t change the fact that each one of our cups is filled with both joys and sorrows. We need to embrace our cups, realizing that we are all different, but we also need to realize that we have a lot more in common than we think, and that in being vulnerable and in community with one another can be so beneficial.
We all struggle differently, and that’s okay. Sin is still sin, no matter what it looks like. Just because someone’s sin looks different than your sin, doesn’t give you the authority to judge them for that, because sin is sin no matter what it looks like. In our struggles, we need to encourage our bothers and sisters in Christ, not bring them down. In our sorrows, we need to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, not invalidate their feelings or way of grieving. We need to make communities in which we feel that we are allowed to struggle. Where we are allowed to grieve. Where we are allowed to be vulnerable. We need to be empathetic. We need to be understanding. We need to be encouraging. We need to be loving.
To be transparent with you all, I have struggled previously with self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and currently with depression and anxiety. I share this things with you, not to receive pity, or attention, or whatever. Rather, I share these things with you for three reasons: 1) You are not alone. If you have similar struggles, I want you to know, you are not alone. 2) You can overcome these things. Even when it seems like there will be no end, that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, that you are hopeless, there is hope. You can get through this (and as I have ranted about it, you dont have to do it alone, that is why we have community.) and 3) to show you that being vulnerable, although is scary, and hard at times, can help and bring hope to someone who is struggling.
We weren’t created to drink our cups alone. We we’re created for community, and with that comes the need for vulnerability.
We need to work at being better to one another. Better at being the brothers and sisters we are called to be in Christ. We need to make safe spaces for each other. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and also allow others to do the same. We need to drink our cups- together.