Fearless Vulnerability: the secret side of strength

  05 May 2017

 

“You can’t really love other people well unless you are at home in your own soul.” – Paula Rinehart

“Love always requires courage and involves risk.”  ? M. Scott Peck

Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest, the strongest, and most influential woman in the world because of her vulnerability.  She courageously placed her heart out there when she announced to the world that she was sexually abused as a child, sharing her struggle with weight problem, and etc., for the sake of many.  [restrict]  She became vulnerable for the sake of larger purpose for women not only in the United States but throughout the world crossing over every language, culture, color, and creed.  Once it was out in the open, every woman, man, and child who had been sexually abused came out of the woodwork to find freedom from shame.  They breathed a sigh of relief, “Ah! Finally someone understands.”

In many ways, vulnerability is the last thing we would expect to associate with strength.  The word literally means “able to be wounded” and therefore, vulnerability flies in the face of our usual concept of strength, certainly the ones we see daily.  To be vulnerable is to voluntarily place yourself, for the sake of a larger purpose, perhaps not as Oprah did, but with a friend. You see something at stake – your spiritual growth or someone else’s and you are willing to risk your heart in a vulnerable way.

Who can find a virtuous woman?  Proverbs asks.   The word  virtuous is hayil, a Hebrew power term used to describe robust things like amassing an army or the strength of a horse.  Cynthia and Robert Hicks write in their book about the biblical stages of a woman’s life, “At each stage of a woman’s journey… strength is her defining attribute.”  Whatever Christian stereotypes we may have built on female strength as pink, and passive, and empty-headed or “jarhead” (brainwashed by culture and or religiosity) do not square with the scripture.  Just because some said these are the ways women should be doesn’t mean they have to be.  Small choices to do something that can get you hurt make you strong and balance your world.

Why do we fear vulnerability? We are afraid that if someone finds out who we really are, they will reject us.  While we may try to appear perfect, strong or intelligent in order to connect with others, in actual fact, is pretense which often has the opposite effect intended.  Paula Niedenthal says that we resonate too deeply with one another not to perceive inauthenticity.  We even register inauthenticity physiologically.  Our bodies are too intelligent not to see phoniness. When we are inauthentic (not real with our shadows and our lights) and try to hide our feelings, others know – ngarngii ra bedengir.  This explains our discomfort around inauthentic or “fake” people.

On the other hand, when people stick to the truth (including avoiding little white lies/half truths), not only does their well-being increase but their relationships improve, experts suggest.  A recent study indicates that verbally expressing our feelings exactly as they are may help us overcome emotions faster.  When we allow ourselves to be completely open and vulnerable, we benefit, our relationships improve, and we may even become more attractive.  “We are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth,” says Dr. Brene Brown, Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  “We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.”  Why do we love children so much? Why are we drawn to people who act themselves? Because we feel a natural comfort in the presence of authenticity.  Moreover, someone who is real and vulnerable gives us the space and permission to be the same.  [/restrict]