In today’s society we are taught to be strong; to stand on our own two feet and not to show any kind of fear or suggestion of weakness. And yet, in those weaker moments I received some of the greatest things like joy, happiness, laughter.
I am what is known as an introvert; that is I do readily jump into the middle of a gang of people like they were old friends and start chatting them up. I like to think I bear that label because I seek internally for external solutions. I prefer the wisdom that comes from in over the sounding boom of the external masses.
When I would start work at a new place, people often thought I was stuck-up and a snob. They based that judgment on two things: how I dressed and how little I said.
I was in fact the exact opposite of what they portrayed me to be. Some of the most attractive people I have known have been some of the loneliest and isolated people because they too were judged in the same way. People looking in on them projected their ideas into their persona.
Truth be known, I was as opposite to their idea as black is to white, Yin to Yang. In a new work place I never displayed any vulnerability or weakness as soon as I walked through the door. I was there to do a job. My silence and the way I dressed were interpreted by others as snobbery.
The day I showed up in jeans they actually did a double take and if I recall I think more people spoke to me that day then had in the three or four weeks I’d been on the job!
You are what you wear is NOT a good slogan! Just because she’s pretty or dresses well doesn’t mean that she is stuck up or a snob. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Definitions of Vulnerability – Changes Over Time
So, what does vulnerability have to do with any of this? What does it mean to say that someone is vulnerable? The Oxford dictionary defines vulnerability as:
The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
An earlier definition found in the Online Etymology Dictionary describes vulnerability along the same lines as weakness and says:
c. 1300 a quality of being weak … a disadvantage or vulnerability is from 1590s – that of self-indulgent fondness is from 1712 – meaning thing for which one has an “indulgent fondness” is from 1822
As for the word vulnerable, the Etymology Dictionary states:
c. 1600, from Late Latin vulnerabilis “wounding,” from Latin vulnerare “to wound, hurt, injure, maim,” from vulnus (genitive vulneris) “wound,” perhaps related to vellere “pluck, to tear” (see svelte), or from PIE *wele-nes-, from *wele- (2) “to strike, wound”
Sounds to me, with the last description, that it is like exposing the most sensitive part of your self to the potential of harm. The 1600 definition appears to relate to the potential for bodily harm, whereas we today speak more of exposure to emotional harm.
Relationships & Vulnerability
Once a person gets hurt in a relationship, they build walls to protect themselves so that they aren’t vulnerable to being hurt again. The trouble with this is that you might be protecting yourself from getting hurt, but you are also shutting yourself out of the possibility of entering into a beautiful relationship. It is a tough call to make and I think only the individual can decide when he or she is ready to entertain the idea of a new relationship.
As C.S. Lewis said, “To love is to be vulnerable.”
It is not only okay but it is necessary that you remove yourself from an environment where you have been hurt. You need to do some soul searching and some healing. If it continues for a long time, you have to ask yourself who is losing out in this isolation and withdrawal. Don’t become a hermit.
Are you beginning to feel lonely and isolated? If so, you need to start thinking about getting back out there. You don’t have to jump in when the first person comes along. If he or she attracts you, then take it nice and slow. You need to start trusting yourself and your judgment of character.
When you re-enter the relationship arena you must be prepared to make yourself open and vulnerable to the possibilities of love.
The way people looked at me and saw me in the work environment, until they got to know me, is a good example of why you need to let people know who you are, otherwise they will judge and label and they could very well be scared off.
Being vulnerable is not something bad. It is not a weakness of character, it is an opening of person letting another into who you are; the real you.
It reminds me of a book I read years ago by John Powell, SJ, called “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?” That so perfectly describes the person who is not willing to be vulnerable.
Addictions & Vulnerability
There is an acronym for the word halt in the 12-step programs, that stands as a banner warning us that if we have any of these things going on in our life, we are vulnerable and we need to halt; to change what is happening so that we do not relapse.
Bible on Vulnerability
After Yeshua was baptized and lead by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted by haSatan for 40 days. At the end of the 40 days the first thing haSatan tempted Yeshua with had to do with his not having eaten for 40 days. We can only imagine that he was weak, tired and hungry.
Luke 4:1-2 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Vulnerability is Good & Necessary
You must know and understand yourself and be prepared to be open to others. If you know that it might not be a good thing, then don’t do it. Trust yourself, that you know what is right, and then just do it.
Don’t let a bad experience keep you from experiencing all the other beauty that is out there in the world waiting for your arrival.