One thing that defines our relationships today is easy access to hundreds of people online daily. We have more facts about people – their likes, personal photos, and life events – but know far less about WHO people really are. The quality of our relationships is declining. Why? One surprising reason is our fear of being vulnerable.
Fear of being vulnerable
My own fears were revealed recently as I attempted to meet with a friend who I admire greatly. She shares wonderful prayer stories that always encourage my heart and she is a gifted entrepreneur.
Our first meeting attempt failed…you know, busy schedules…but we promised to convene for coffee later in the week. Friday morning arrived, but we hadn’t connected.
I was feeling rejected. I was eager to connect and do life together. Negative thoughts about my personal worth were flitting through my head. I knew I was being overly sensitive and unreasonable. “People have busy lives,” I told myself.
Brené Brown, a well-known scholar and author on vulnerability defines my reaction as shame. This shame is the fear of separation – of not connecting with my friend – because she has seen and knows the REAL me.
As a Christian entrepreneur and leader, an unwritten rule I often observe is to avoid sharing your struggles. We know that God has the answers so turn to Him and, for heaven’s sake, don’t share your junk with friends. In the past, I had shared open and honestly with my friend. Perhaps I was being vulnerable and violated the rule!
My friend did call and we met on that Friday morning. An hour into our meeting, God revealed that shame wasn’t just an issue with me. My friend began to share on a very personal level about some challenges and her own rejection feelings about some relationships, including ours.
I so valued her vulnerability that I shared honestly in return about my fears of rejection that morning. In that moment, we broke through our individual misconceptions and began to build a much deeper, authentic friendship. It was powerful reminder to me of the importance of being real and vulnerable even when we have doubts.
Being Vulnerable and Making Deeper Personal Connections
As I pondered what transpired, I identified three necessary ingredients in building a deep, personal connection with another person.
1.Know who you are. It is difficult to be honest and open in a relationship if you don’t know who you are or who you were to be. God has established our identity and He outlines it in fully in Scripture. When you understand and accept your identity, you can risk sharing your uniqueness because God loves you, fully accepts you, and always has your back. You belong to God’s tribe!
Brené Brown confirms the result of “belonging.” People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of that love. Courage to be imperfect and compassion to be kind to themselves and to others is embraced. They are willing to let go of who they thought they were to be who they truly are.
If you are ready to embrace who you truly are, I have written here about your identity in Christ and provided many scriptures to confirm your identity.
2. Love yourself and others enough to be honest. You can never be in true relationship with others if you are not fully yourself. God calls you to first love Him and then, out of the abundance of His love, to love others as you love yourself. Authenticity and vulnerability demands that you be honest as a reflection of your love. Respectfully ask for what is important to you. In return, always listen and allow the other party the same honesty about their needs.
3. Perhaps I should have listed this first. I believe it’s the most important gift you can give another! When you ask someone about their life, their needs, and their concerns and then commit your whole body to listening, you edify and raise them up. You demonstrate their importance by actively hearing their words. Listen with the intent to hear only, not to fix or to provide answers. I believe listening is a vehicle of God’s love.
Today I am grateful that my friend and I were being vulnerable enough with each other to hear and learn from each other. We put aside any fear of shame and shared the truth. It brought us closer together. I walked away realizing that every time I overcome my fear and risk a deeper connection, I welcome more meaning into my life.
Has being vulnerable improved or hurt your relationships? Do you agree with the three ingredients I listed above? It would be so helpful if you would comment below and let me know what you think.