by Natasha Lye
How often are we asked “how are you?” and we instinctively say “I’m okay”, even though there is a secret longing to pour our heart out and to be loved at our weakest? Has anyone ever told you to “just be strong”? Have you been laughed at for crying because “real men don’t cry”?
Admittedly, being seen as weak has been a huge fear of mine. Before Jesus spoke into my heart about the love He had for me, I was hiding in the shadows of my insecurities and failures. I wanted to be seen as perfect and strong. However, my strength lay only in the walls I built up. Now, this is the part of my story I’m allowing God to rewrite.
Is Vulnerability a Sign of Weakness?
The dictionary definition of vulnerability is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” This is the imprint society has left on our hearts. It’s as if we have to hide our emotions or else we would be laughed at, looked down upon or hurt.
Fear almost always hinders us from speaking from our hearts. We are hurting, but to a greater extent, we are afraid of being seen as imperfect and broken. In church, we’ve always been encouraged to remain open but I never really understood what that meant. Only upon reflection did I realise that being open to God also meant being vulnerable with Him. The reason why so many of us struggle to experience a living relationship with God is because we also struggle to be vulnerable. The concept of being vulnerable is so foreign to many, out of fear of rejection or judgement.
True vulnerability is letting down our walls not because we are weak, but because we trust that the Lord who sees us, does not judge us, but loves and heals us. We trust that He blesses us with people in our lives whom we gradually learn to trust to do the same.
Redefining Vulnerability as Strength
To be vulnerable is to fully express yourself without fear and the most courageous thing you could do for yourself is to be who God made you to be, with your flaws and all.
For in John 4:17 it says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear”.
We do not have to be afraid. With the courage of the Lord that flows from His love for us, acknowledging our struggles is the first bold step taken towards self-awareness. We don’t run away from our problems but in going on to share them, we get things off our chest and allow ourselves to be helped by others. True strength is when we are able to honestly acknowledge our shortcomings and to get back up on our feet, often done so with help. Rather than pretending everything is okay, being vulnerable helps us to be real with ourselves and others. It gives us a chance to be held especially at our weakest and an opportunity to grow in our character and work with our limitations.
Why is being vulnerable important for others?
Vulnerability inspires vulnerability, just as how faith stirs faith. The softening of our own hearts softens the hearts of another. We help others relate to us better and build trust between persons. Naturally, others would also be more inclined to share deeper when we do the same.
We show them the love of God we have experienced and which we desire to share with them. Through our sharing, we tell others, “I’m trusting you with this part of myself because I cherish you and want to share life with you”. We were not made to go through life alone. We were made to experience love and support. We give love and life when we build each other up through the ways we relate to one another.
In being vulnerable, we allow others to share our lives. In our joys and pains, we become connected not just physically, but more importantly with our hearts. Imagine a world where everyone wasn’t so afraid of having unguarded, heartfelt conversations. How different our relationships with others would be!
Out of my many fruitful experiences from choosing to be vulnerable, the greatest one has got to be my relationship with my mom. I used to have a distant and angry relationship with my mom. I felt she did not understand me. I desperately wished things were different but every time she scolded or talked to me, I wanted to shut her out. It was not until vulnerability graced our relationship that things began to change.
I remember one night when I was feeling lost and defeated about my life, and the inner child in me was hurting so badly. I was telling God how deeply I longed to have a mother to hold me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. It was then I realised, I didn’t trust my mom enough to run to her crying, because I’d never allowed myself to be unguarded around her. That night, something in me stirred and I wanted real change. And for my relationship with my mom to change, I had to change.
In short, after having the most intense debate with myself, out came a decision that would change my life forever. I simply decided to talk to my mom. Not just a superficial talk, but to share with her what was on my heart. With tears, I released years of resentment towards the way my mom treated me and spoke honestly about what exactly I was unhappy and hurt by. In response, she also shared how my shutting her out had hurt her. We finally began to understand each other better.
Our relationship though better is definitely not perfect and I’m still learning every day to share a little bit more with her about my life. However, I can proclaim that God has been so faithful in growing our relationship and the seed for that growth was vulnerability. It re-ignited a bond with my mom that nobody else would ever be able to have with me; a bond that is loving and honest, even when honesty and reprimand hurts. Being vulnerable is a blessing made available not just to me, but to everyone who desires for genuine relationships in their life.
God Calls Us to Be Vulnerable with Him
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
God desires to be connected to you, and we often ask “how do I connect to Him?” I’d say, be real about your insecurities and weaknesses. God delights in you. All of you. He transforms our weaknesses into strengths beyond our understanding. He heals our wounds with love and tenderness. There is nothing that can make Him love us any less. Hiding the parts of our lives that we deem unworthy in the sight of God only prevents us from being full authentic with Him. He offers us unconditional and pure love. All this is possible through Christ.
Many of us question God’s existence when we are met with silence in prayer and when we can’t ‘feel’ Him. In our habit of keeping things to ourselves, we have grown used to numbing ourselves to survive. Hence we pray with our minds instead of our hearts. Is God really absent, or are we just numb to His love and blind to His affection? Jesus invites us to come to Him in prayer and through the Sacraments, to be loved and heard.
Vulnerability is to Come as We Are
God doesn’t seek anything more from us than for us to just come as we are. With our wounded flesh and broken hearts, God desires for us to be vulnerable with Him. Allow Him to chase after us, to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. God knows your heart. Let go of whatever’s keeping you from opening your heart. Allow Him to engulf you in His love and healing. God takes our weaknesses and gives us strength, His strength. All that we are hiding can be made new, as we step out of the shadows into the comforting arms of the Father.
“Lord, even before I speak a word, you know all about it.” Psalm 139:4
It’s not easy to trust others with what’s in our hearts, but we have to start somewhere and it can be beautiful when we start seeing vulnerability as a grace rather than a weakness. Our hearts are beautifully and wonderfully made. May we persevere in prayer to seek for the graces and courage to be vulnerable especially with Jesus.
We are free to live in the freedom of the Lord. Will you choose to open your heart to Him and His people?
About me: Hellu!! I’m nat, short for Natasha and I enjoy spending time with my loved ones and breakfast is my favourite meal. I have a billion random thoughts everyday but to pen them down and turn them into different forms of art and prayer is something I love doing. Jesus is my BFF 🙂