Vulnerability has become a buzz word of the day. I remember hearing the word in a very negative context as I was growing up. I heard about vulnerability in the context of “Senior adults are vulnerable to telephone scams.” Fast forward twenty years, and now vulnerability is something that is praised. Is vulnerability always a good thing?
My journey toward vulnerability was a long one. I did not exhibit this quality until I was in my thirties. It took depression, anxiety, divorce, and ministry difficulties to bring this quality into my life. Here is what I have learned:
Vulnerability can be a great point of connection. People identify with vulnerability. When pastors share their struggles, people often connect. Those who beat themselves up for failing to be the perfect Christian are set at ease when they hear pastors share their struggles with their words, thoughts, and actions.
Vulnerability should have its boundaries. For example, it would not be wise to stand up in a church service and surprise someone in front of the entire congregation by publicly confessing your impure thoughts about that person in detail. That is something best shared with God. Not everyone can be trusted with your vulnerability.
Vulnerability can attract the wrong element into your life. As a man going through a divorce, I met tons of vulnerable people who were looking for love (or at least a rebound). In that case, I attracted that because I was in a bad place emotionally. I have also discovered that vultures who seek to eat the vulnerable alive will try to take advantage of you. Even when vulnerability is expressed in a positive way, it can be an open door to draw people in who can drain your energy if you are not careful.
Vulnerability is hated by those who do not exhibit it or connect with it. Vulnerability has its way of cueing up the critics. They will be quick to point out how you always talk about a particular thing or share too much. If God has placed it within you to say, let the critics run their mouths. People are going to voice their opinions anyway, so you might as well get the practice of drowning out their negative noise.
Vulnerability can have repercussions. Some of those with whom you are vulnerable may use it as a means to betray you. They may think, “Well, Matthew admitted he is not strong in this particular area, so we will build our case to prove he should not lead us.” I have seen this happen in the church setting. I have had to learn that if my vulnerability comes back around through another party, I must be willing to sign my name to it and accept the consequences.
Everything in life must have balance, including vulnerability. In the day of extremists, balance is difficult to find but extremely refreshing. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and dismiss vulnerability, but don’t go on a “I-will-tell-all” spree either. Give vulnerability a try, using some boundaries, and watch God connect the dots. It really can be a beautiful thing.