Sunday, April 17, 2011

Honesty / Vulnerability

I've been thinking a lot about honesty and vulnerability lately. Aside from the fact that our lesson in church today was about honesty, and aside from the fact that my friend Sallie posted this great TedTalk on her blog about vulnerability, it's just been on my mind lately.

I've come to the conclusion that I am completely averse to weakness. Of course, I have plenty of weaknesses. I could list hundreds of them--but if you ask me to my face what I'm struggling with, I probably won't tell you. Vulnerability terrifies me. As a music student, I would routinely cry my way through my private lessons because they exposed weaknesses, and that made me very uncomfortable.

Maybe I'm afraid that I'm too weak to withstand any criticism that may arise as people discover the chinks in my armor. My walls are protective.

Moving to a new place has left me pretty vulnerable in itself, but I avoid the bulk of it by shutting myself off to people. I sit by myself at church. When people ask how everything is going, I say "fine," despite what might really be going on (though most of us do this at least to a point: we recognize that the cashier at the grocery store doesn't really want to know our life challenges).

Recently, I realized what a mistake this has been.

Vulnerability is endearing. When first you realize that someone you admire has faults, weaknesses, and personal hurts in his or her life, you don't shun that person--you feel more connected to them. They become human, like the rest of us.

The problem is, it requires a great deal of trust to willfully expose your weakness to others. I have problems with that. I do really well at accepting the weaknesses of others, and in different stages of my life, I've been a trusted confidante who heard many deep secrets and painful realities. Unfailingly, when someone revealed to me what was troubling them, I felt more love for them as a person. It never had a negative effect on our relationship--always, always brought us closer. So why do I deny myself the same kind of strengthening power to my relationships?

To pretend that I am without weakness builds a wall around me. Yes, it may protect me from being hurt, but it also keeps out any potential friends. You can't pick and choose, really, what the outcome will be when you build that wall. The funny thing about it is that no one will really believe you anyway, if you pretend to be without weakness. News flash: we ALL have weakness!

Part of honesty is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It means giving an answer because that's how you feel, instead of answering how you think the person asking the question might want you to answer. Honesty means that you'll be wrong sometimes. Honesty means that you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Honesty means failing. Perhaps the most difficult: honesty means coming to terms with yourself as you are, not as you wish you were, or as you wish others would see you. You can't make any improvements in your life if you don't know where your starting point is.

I'm well aware of this. And I want to grow. I want to allow others into my life. But after so many years of hiding my weaknesses, I don't know how one goes about letting others (i.e., aside from my sweet husband and my family, who thankfully know pretty much all of my weaknesses) see who I really am.


  1. Totally there with you. I really have a hard time opening myself up to people. There are a few people who I have allowed "in", but it's hard for me to have the desire to expose myself to new people. Too bad we're not in the same ward--we could sit by ourselves together. :)

  2. This is a great post, Rachel. Really made me think about some things...

    I just think you're such a marvelous person, I hope you can find some local friends that you can get close to. And I would totally come sit with you and Heather!!

  3. Wow. Thank you for this. I really identified with it and it made me think.

    -a fellow Rachel :)