The Bright Side: Vulnerability
Published 6:21 pm Sunday, June 11, 2023
What does it mean to be vulnerable? Oxford Languages defines vulnerable as “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.” For a good majority of my life, I’ve viewed vulnerability as a weakness or an impairment to the human condition. In my eyes, to be vulnerable meant allowing others the ability to hurt me. And that was just, personally, unacceptable. However, I now think there’s two sides to the story of vulnerability.
Vulnerability often lends itself to being in need of assistance of some sort, whether it be because of “age, disability, risk of abuse or neglect.” Quite frankly, being vulnerable terrified me for a long time. I found it alarming that when I was angry, tears would well in my eyes; I looked at this as some sort of weakness that would cause concern for those who were around me. For a long while, it was hard for me to open up to anyone, as circumstances involving my vulnerability led to distrust, hurt egos and self-interpreted pity. When it came to shared traumas, I always let the other person talk as I listened, offering advice while withholding information on personal experiences. I found it “easier” to close myself off emotionally from the world rather than let anyone too close, minus a select few that either gained their trust after years and years of friendship or immediate family members that know me a little too well.
This narrative began to change upon meeting my fiancé, who allowed me to open up slowly, but was so willing to share his beliefs and ideas and stories with me that I couldn’t help but find myself wanting him to know the intricacies of what made me, me. Through our shared feelings, we became much more emotionally vulnerable with one another and were able to cultivate a relationship that is built on love, trust and joy. I found myself talking more openly with others, able to share deeper intel on my life and how the past had shaped who I was and who I ultimately was striving to be.
Up until that point, I was on the fence with vulnerability – it had helped me form deeper relationships, strengthen my resiliency and foster better communication. On the flip side, it still left me susceptible to anger, rejection, ridicule and dishonesty. What was I to do?
My mind changed on a crisp, fall day in November. Money was tight, family health problems were getting the best of me, making time for myself was a foreign concept and I could feel myself spiraling. The sun was just about to set, and I found myself walking the beach as tears streamed down my cheeks. What am I supposed to do? I felt my chest tighten as I held in all of the fear. It was at that moment I realized there was a hardened shell surrounding my heart from all of the years of “keeping it in.” And then God asked me to tell Him all about how I was feeling. So, I did.
I poured out my heart for a solid hour. I told God why I was sad, angry, emotionally spent. I was physically shaking from the self-imposed turmoil I had going on inside myself. And God listened. As I went on and on, I could feel my chest start to loosen the shell began to crack. I let God in, let myself be vulnerable so His healing could fill the parts of me that had been broken for a long time. After my venting session, I went home and spilled my heart out to my fiancé, then my father, my mother, my sister, my friends, etc. I let them into my life fully for the first time and invited them to stay. And I found peace in that there was no ridicule, no rejection, no broken trust. They listened, and did not look at me with pity but with understanding and love. That’s when I realized there are two sides to vulnerability.
The reality for me is that being vulnerable does not mean I am weak. Quite the opposite, as I have come to find that Jesus chose to be vulnerable, and understood that vulnerability with God, yourself and others led to finding strength in God and his purpose on earth.
Writing these columns has allowed me to be vulnerable, and I thank each and every one of you that has taken the time to read them, and even email me about them. You have proven to me that being vulnerable is much more of a strength than it is given credit for. It has opened doors that I didn’t even know existed. For that, I am so grateful.
Danielle Puleo is a staff writer for The Coastland Times. Reach her at email@example.com.