When you read that vulnerability = strength, what was your first reaction?
To some of you, it may seem an Orwellian (war=peace) stretch, to others it may be the most natural thing in the world.
I keep hearing people mistake vulnerability for weakness, and I’d like to offer a different perspective, as i think that is one of the most destructive myths of our time.
Vulnerability simply means undefended. It means you have your guard down. It is the space in which we can connect with each other.
Yes, there is a strength in being defended. It is like a castle with the drawbridge up. No one can get in, no one can get out. Impenetrable.
When the drawbridge is down, you are vulnerable to attack. Should someone choose.
When the drawbridge is down, you are open to exchange.
When the drawbridge is down, your armies can get out.
There is a certain strength in being defended, yes.
AND there is a deeper strength called forth in being vulnerable.
This has been a daily practice for me in my relationship with my wife Rosy. In living together, and in her desire to call forth excellence in me, she’ll often need to communicate with me about a topic that I’m uncomfortable with, perhaps a situation I could have handled better. I’ll often start off with my defenses, a swirl of reasons and excuses that what I did wasn’t wrong.
At some point I’ll notice I’m being defended – often it’s Rosy pointing that out – and I’ll let my defenses down and receive the “attack”. With my defenses down, deeper connection is enabled, and I’ll be impacted by her words and touched by them at my core. It then occurs to me that this supposed attack is actually intended as a communication of her love rather than an attack. My heart is fortified, and I’ve created an ally out of my former enemy: (one definition of surrender).
It requires a trusting of your deeper strengths, trusting that you are actually strong enough to withstand an attack. Trusting that any kind of attack would only exercise your deeper strengths, and leave you stronger. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you.
It’s like the martial arts master who walks into a rough bar and strikes up a friendly conversation. Aware that there may be an attack, but allowing space for connection, knowing full well that ample defenses are ready if need be.
I’d go so far as to say that the state of vulnerability is the only time you’re truly powerful. The only time you can access your deeper strength, your love, and unleash it on the world.
A quote from Erica Jong: “Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.”
Another from Thomas Merton, via the Shambala Sun.
“Then it was as if I had suddenly seen the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the divine. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. I suppose the big problem would be we would all fall down and worship each other.”
May we all fall down and worship each other.