This post is shared with permission from Mary Rabe at Raphah Mama. It was originally published on her personal blog, but we wanted to share it with the readers here at Raising Rices as well. Enjoy!
If you spend any amount of time on social media these days, you are bound to run into something having to do with being vulnerable, open, or real. In our culture today there is almost a “vulnerability movement” of sorts, with people all over urging us to be “real” and “honest”, sharing our true feelings and beliefs in courage and strength, and not being afraid to let others see our “true colors”. While I completely agree with the idea that we should be ourselves, I think that we can take this too far and turn “being vulnerable” into some kind of show all about us.
The definition of vulnerability is “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”. It is weakness, while the messages of our culture relating to “being real” stem more from a desire to be “strong enough to be vulnerable”. If we use openness to try to earn acceptance from others, to attempt deeper connections solely with other people and not God, to point to ourselves in any way, or to simply follow the cultural pressure to “be real”, we are completely missing the point. Kelsiklembara at Relevant Life Magazine’s website said it well in the article “The Part of Vulnerability No One Talks About”:
“…the ability to become vulnerable flows from our assurance in Christ, not our assurance in Instagram likes or comments. When we choose to look for our worth and value in baring our hearts (in both good and bad situations!), we lose sight of both Christ and the good that can come from vulnerability… Making vulnerability a cultural “have-to” ironically turns it from something that points us to Christ in our deficiencies and instead keeps us in the dangerous cycle of trying to prove our own strength. When we put our hope in our actions rather than in Christ, you better bet that sooner or later we’ll find our eyes glued to ourselves without any ability to look outward toward Christ or to others. Because Christ was perfectly vulnerable for you and for me, we are free to openly express our feelings, without feeling the pressure that we have to.”(https://relevantmagazine.com/article/the-power-and-danger-of-vulnerability-no-one-talks-about/)
With that said, I think there is a way to be genuine and open with others in a way that honors God and blesses others. This kind of vulnerability isn’t ultimately about us at all, but is another way to showcase God’s work and grace in our lives. Here are some things God is teaching me about “God-centered vulnerability”.
1. Why Be Vulnerable?
Why should being open and vulnerable even be something we consider? I think there are multiple reasons, but one main one is that being vulnerable with the right people can protect us from Satan’s attacks. When we try to hide away our struggles–believing we are alone in them, that no one would understand, or that we need to “keep it together” in order to help others–we isolate ourselves and give Satan the perfect opportunity to attack. Remember, Satan is like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Anyone who has seen Animal Planet knows that lions and other predators single out prey that is weak, sick, or alone; and the Enemy of our Souls is no different. Satan wants us to think that we are the only ones who struggle with (fill in the blank) so that we clam up and try to hide the truth from others. Shame is one of his biggest calling cards, and if we fall prey to it we open ourselves up to a whole lot of hurt. By confessing our struggles with the right people (more on that later), we also invite them to fight with us and to remind us of God’s Truth, and Satan isn’t able to take us down as easily.
2. Know Your Real Value.
The first step in even being capable of real vulnerability is being firmly set in your true, unchanging value. I think a fairly common struggle that I also have to fight against is wanting people to like us–all the people. Call it people-pleasing, codependency, or plain old “fear of man”; it has been a problem for me for as long as I can remember, and I know is something that many others deal with. The fact is, though, we can’t be liked by everyone. We can’t expect everyone to enjoy the “flavor” of personality that God has given us. So, placing any sense of our personal value in the hands of sinful, fallible people is a guaranteed loss. We need to base our value on what God says, because His view of us never changes.
We need to let these truths sink deep into our hearts, dwell on them, pray about them, and believe them! Only then will we be able to have the courage to risk being vulnerable with others, because we will remember that even if people reject or dislike what they see, our God-given value isn’t changed one little bit.
3. Remember Perfection is Not a Thing.
“To err is human” or so the saying goes. So why do we all work so hard to try to appear perfect? Imperfection and struggle is just part of being a fallen human; as much as I strive to live out all the things I long to be, it just isn’t possible to do that all the time. Even the Apostle Paul confessed to struggling with this: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) Nobody gets everything right all the time. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And yet still, there are so many times I find that I am comparing myself to others. “Wow. I can’t believe he doesn’t struggle with that like I do. I wish I was more like him.” “She has so much wisdom. Why can’t I just think like she does?” Most of my comparisons end up elevating others above myself, but there are times I am ashamed to find that I think I am better than someone else. You know what, though? God sees every single believer exactly the same–redeemed sinners, forgiven and covered by His Son’s blood. Not one of my precious brothers and sisters in Christ are better or worse than me. We all have the same value, the same redemption, and the same ultimate end-goal of being more like Jesus. We have different strengths and weaknesses, but none of us is closer to perfection than anyone else. Only God Himself is perfect, and none of us will attain that until we join Him in Heaven. Just remembering that is encouragement to be more open with the other imperfect people around me.
4. Being Open Often Helps Others.
There have been a handful of times in my life that someone has opened up and shared with me in a very vulnerable way, and I am always blown away by how that blesses and helps me. I have never once felt less regard, respect, or affection for someone I love who has “let their walls fall down” for the moment and allowed me a glimpse of the real person inside. It’s pretty silly, then, for me to fear that my close relationships would do any differently to me. Sure, it could happen; being vulnerable carries a risk of heartbreak because we live in a fallen world with imperfect people (remember the point above?) I think the general, overriding truth, though, is that people are helped and honored when we open up to them. In my own life, I have been healed from deep hurt, set free from Satan’s lies, inspired to keep going in a tough situation, drawn closer to God, and been blessed with closer fellowship with others all because someone was willing to be genuine and real. Why would I want to hinder others from experiencing that by refusing to be vulnerable with them?
5. We Need to Have Wisdom in How Open to Be, and With Whom.
Now. With all of this said, there is still a balance to be had. We don’t want to be people who go around spilling our deepest heart secrets to every stranger we bump into, or to those we don’t know very well (and who don’t really know us). There are several reasons for this. First, it takes a relationship to be able to accept vulnerability. Beyond us needing to feel safe with people we are close to in order to share openly, even the receiver of vulnerability needs to have at least some level of relationship with us in order to feel comfortable to hear our hearts. Sharing intense openness with someone who doesn’t know you well will often just make them feel uncomfortable. It’s wise to take time to build a relationship with someone before you pour out your soul to them.
Next, people who don’t know us well won’t be able to speak into our lives and receive our vulnerability like those that know us well would. They won’t appreciate it in the same way, and likely won’t be as impacted by it since they don’t have the same knowledge of who we are as our closer relationships do.
Finally, we need to remember that vulnerability is being willingly weak with others, and it requires discernment and wisdom to decide if the people we are sharing with are trustworthy and capable of handling our openness with discretion, grace, and Christlike love. We aren’t required to share everything with everybody, nor should we. There is a difference between being open in a God-honoring way and being careless with the deep things of our hearts.
Ultimately, we want our vulnerability to draw us and others closer to God. This is something that Steven Lee at Desiring God calls “Redemptive Vulnerability”:
“To be vulnerable is to be susceptible to being wounded or hurt. In the context of community, vulnerability is opening up about one’s humanity. It’s to admit that we are not perfect people. We have not arrived. We are broken, unfinished people who live in a world that itself is broken because of the fall. We experience depression, burn out, cancer, sadness, death, grief, disability, disease, relational strife, loneliness, lust, anxiety, and the list goes on. But our story doesn’t need to end with brokenness. Redemptive vulnerability — a vulnerability that leads to life — is where we share our brokenness in order to display the surpassing power and sufficiency of Christ and the gospel, which transforms us increasingly into the likeness of Christ. Vulnerability is not an end in itself. Rather, our vulnerability should point us, individually and together with other believers, to the sufficiency of Jesus. It looks at and hopes in the redemption we have in Christ Jesus and the work of the cross.”(https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/give-your-weakness-to-god)
Like everything else in our lives, we can use vulnerability to showcase God’s grace and work in our lives, and fulfill the call to always and continually point to Him. With that in mind, I hope you’ll join me in God-Centered vulnerability, being genuine and open with trustworthy people in order to point them to God (and be pointed to Him yourself).
Mary Rabe is a stay-at-home mama of 3 kiddos that she enjoys the privilege and blessing to homeschool. She is right in the thick of the “little years” with all her kiddos 7 and under, so it is a busy season, for sure, but also so much fun! She and her husband Jed have been married for 10 years and have loved to have had the chance to “grow up” together after marrying young. Mary says, “I am a recovering perfectionist learning how to let go of control and just trust my amazing Heavenly Father to take care of things for me (which is why I chose the word “raphah” for my blog, the Hebrew word for “let go”). I am still learning and growing a lot, just a young mama being refined and matured in this grand adventure of life, but I pray that what I write will bless, encourage, and inspire each of you in your unique journeys.”
You can visit Mary’s blog at https://raphahmama.blogspot.com/.