I didn’t know it at the time, but my first lessons in vulnerability growing up weren’t easy.
Sometimes they were subtle, other times they were drilled in. As a boy, you want to be good at sports. I was anything but. I tried wrestling, but I wound up losing all the time. I remember my coach always shouting, “THAT’S CRAP, SON!” not just to me but to every wrestler.
At school, I had no problem making good grades and could answer most questions. The older I got, the tougher it became, because I knew with every raised hand, I was being known more as the “smart kid” and the “teacher’s pet.” When school dances came around in junior high and high school, I braced myself and bit my lip. I kept getting shot down by girl after girl, but always told myself, “Better to try than not ask at all.”
Vulnerability is never easy to stomach, but over time, I’ve discovered how incredibly important it is.
We walk a delicate tightrope: We’re told to guard our hearts, and it’s wise not to turn to just anybody about your deepest, daily struggles. There’s no way would I open up to someone about those unless there’s been mutual time invested, and I’ve seen their character remain solid and consistent.
I know for some this is a white-knuckle, sweat-inducing subject. When I try to get close to them, I get stiff-armed in 2.4 seconds. Conversations are kept on the surface, but I try not to take it personally. I don’t know what they’ve dealt with. Many times, there’s pain that’s buried down deep.
“Shame is this unbelievably powerful emotion and weight that if the gospel doesn’t penetrate and redeem will absolutely burn everything inside of you and around you to the ground,” Pastor Matt Chandler said.
“Here’s what happens when someone walks in shame and feels unworthy and unclean and dirty: They will, whether they know it or not, sabotage all the relationships around them out of some strange sense of control. ‘I can make you reject me so that you in the end you don’t reject me, or I will keep you at such a distance so that you don’t really know me, so that you don’t have the shot to reject me so in the end if you do reject me I can feel okay about myself, cause you never really knew me, you just knew what I let you see.’”
When those walls are destroyed, amazing things will follow.
I’ve seen my pastor get emotional when mentioning that, before he found Jesus, nine people died from the drugs he sold to them. I remember seeing Tim Ross’ “I Am Second” video for the first time. I also loved hearing a lady at church one night tell how she was diagnosed with cancer, but believed God to heal her, then went back shortly after and eventually saw a black hole where the tumor had been.
I saw a whole other dimension to vulnerability after my brother committed suicide. I learned that I don’t always have to put on a happy face. It’s okay for people to know that there were days that I was struggling, hurting and missing him tremendously. It was fine for people to see I was barely making it.
When you can overcome shame, or any other kind of pain and guilt, and become vulnerable, incredible things happen. Because then you can truly connect with people. Then you can share your stories.
And there is power in our testimony.
A freelance writer since November, 2010, Trae Thompson is not a big fan of religious church people, corrupt politicians, or pompous athletes who think they’re above the law. Since he never saw his childhood dream of becoming James Bond actualized, he had to settle instead for appearing on a commercial that was once on ESPN’s College GameDay. Trae loves Ocean Spray CranGrape juice, old Atari games, and has been known to gesture a lot. He also thinks the best thing about still being single is continuing to grow, learn and become a better man. You can follow Trae on Twitter @geaux4it or read more of his writing at www.thehigherplaces.wordpress.com.
*Photo credit: FaceMePLS