We have all been there. Someone says something or shares something and it surprises us. We didn’t quite expect that level of vulnerability. It’s especially surprising when it comes from a leader, a boss or someone we have pedestalled.
What happens next is what it’s really all about.
How do we respond to vulnerability? How do we respond when a work colleague, a spouse, a friend offer a level of vulnerability that catches us off guard?
Our response in such moments reveals our level of understanding about connection and relationship. These moments are not to shame us, but to grow our value for connection.
I believe that the greater conversation is not about the vulnerability offered by another but do we own our capacity to cope with that vulnerability and love unconditionally, especially if we demand it from our leaders?
WHAT VULNERABILITY IS NOT..
You see what we believe around vulnerability shows up in such moments. Most often these experiences confront us with the biggest myth out there, that vulnerability is weakness.
We see the struggle in another. Vulnerability might offer to us human imperfection and weakness in another. We might see fault or failure in another. And then what?
The ‘pattern’ of our world is this, expose, shame and cancel out. Sadly a lot of parenting is this. Research shows that parenting is a shame trigger we all share. When we are submerged in a culture of shame it is so easy to get on us.
Never confuse shame for justice or accountability. Shame never drives positive behaviours or change. What it does drive is rage, blame and hiding.
The ironic thing is that when we shame others, it hurts us.
If we live by the praise of men, we will die by their criticism.
Vulnerability is not about oversharing either. Vulnerability is not outworking our offence, discomfort or rudeness out on others. That is hurt speaking and attention seeking.
Vulnerability is safe because vulnerability has boundaries and is actually a way we can honor the relationship we have with another by showing them the genuineness of ourselves and journey.
A friend is someone who values what’s in the heart of another. When we see people as friends and not objects or targets to shoot down because we are uncomfortable, we have an opportunity for connection.
Coddling people isn’t the answer either. The most compassionate people are the most clear in who they are and what is ok and what is not ok in relationship with them. Compassion is not afraid of struggle. The cross of Jesus showed us this.
SO HOW DO WE RESPOND TO VULNERABILITY?
1. See it as a bid for connection. For connection to happen, vulnerability has to happen. Someone is choosing connection. They are reaching out.
2. Listen. Shakespeare said, ‘The rarest form of love is listening.’ Love doesn’t fix people. Love loves people. Love is sitting with people and not being afraid. When I am afraid, I have infected love. I have chosen something that is inferior.
This is the power of vulnerability, it gives our hearts a voice. It’s ok to say “I don’t know what to say right now, but I am glad to just be here with you.”
3. See vulnerability for what it is, courage. Research is conclusive on this. The most accurate measure of courage is vulnerability. The most courageous thing we can ever do, is own our vulnerability. Whether it’s in our personal or professional world. To own our vulnerability is the way to success. People are looking for real. Are we courageous enough to hold this value for vulnerability in our work culture, our eduction system, our homes?
Courage is contagious.
4. Encourage. Encouragement is a way we put courage into others. Every culture has ideas around encouragement. I have lived in cultures where encouragement is the norm and as a result I have seen people grow, shine, become the best versions of themselves and this is celebrated.
I have been in other cultures where to genuinely encourage someone has been called flattery and met with cynicism. In other cultures the shame mindset is so thick that positive encouragement is totally rejected and ridiculed.
Yet encouragement is what feeds a starved soul ravaged by the harsh ‘I am not enough’ narrative we all encounter. This negativity is hard to flourish in.
Dr Caroline Leaf a NeuroScientist says that negativity and unforgiveness literally causes brain damage!
No wonder God has been all over his kids getting out of a negativity mindset! He doesn’t want us to suffer brain damage! He renews our minds because it is the ‘way, the truth, the life’. John 14:6
Encouragement speaks to God’s image in us and reminds us of who we are. This is healing and health! Encouragement gives us a way home to choose better options.
Finally encouragement kills the number growing social disease, loneliness. It says you are not alone, I SEE YOU!
I remember a time when I was rumbling thru a tough tough moment, and over a period of a year, a spiritual Father who I highly respect, kept saying to me every time he saw me, “I see you.” There was love behind his words. These 3 words pulled me back to who I really am and powerfully helped me through.
This is the power of vulnerability, it lets love into the places we need love. But we must be willing to risk being seen!
HOW TO ENCOURAGE?
It begins with the words “I appreciate..” and continues with something specific. The power of encouragement comes in the specific. Being told you are amazing is great, but being told specifically what is great is even more powerful.
Write it in a sms, note, email, paint it, say it and watch their world and confidence light up!
We were made for encouragement because it is where courage comes from! This is the powerful thing about New Testament prophecy. 1 Corinthains 14:3 says “But when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up and to bring them comfort.”
Wouldn’t this be amazing when courageously we leap out and practice vulnerability, we nourished with encouragement?
Hebrews 3:13 says “But encourage one another DAILY, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s decietfulness.” Encouragement is a skill. We need to practice it, DAILY. Don’t give up! Keep practicing and be vulnerable, don’t be embarrassed to encourage people or intimidated by any push back.
The power of encouragement is that I know someone is in my corner and together we can succeed.
So next time someone offers vulnerability out of left field or you see it offered by a person in authority, watch what YOU do with it. Connection is its prize! Listening and encouragement are its opportunities for you! Above all, remember courage just showed up. So can yours!
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We have entered a new world this year. Whether we saw it coming or not, wanted it or not, we are in it.
If you’ve been feeling the challenge like many others, facing the realities of getting back into life, experiencing the uncertainty of how to live and lead, needing to show up in courage and confidence to walk out what God has spoken over our lives, maybe wondering what do I need to stay connected and to stay human?
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