Being Vulnerable… and Afraid

Humans need intimacy. It’s not just about sex and physical intimacy, it’s also about intimacy with Christ and with the friends, peers, and even leaders, in our lives.

Two of the keys to an authentic and genuine life are intimacy and vulnerability.

I’ll be honest–being vulnerable and intimate in relationships has gotten me hurt in the past. In fact, my greatest heartbreak has come from those relationships. Because of that, a fear of being vulnerable has become hard-wired into my brain. I’ve been around enough Christians to know that if it’s a struggle I’m facing, others are facing it, too. 

So what about it? This isn’t a blog post intended to target the ones who hurt me, that’s not my game. This is a post meant to encourage those who are like me, who desire to be authentic and real because anything less is exhausting, but who have walls in place that keep everything “safe”. This is for those who have relationships with peers yet feel the need to keep people at a distance, who change the way their voice sounds when they compliment because even dishing compliments is vulnerable, while feeling the desire to have authentic, real relationships. This is for you. You who have been hurt, you who have let people in and been broken. 

You are not wrong to be guarded. You are not wrong to have a desire to protect those intimate parts of you. You were hurt, and that is valid.

However, the edification and encouragement we are designed to receive from the body of Christ, those intimate “David and Jonathan” relationships cannot be obtained, with any level of genuine nature, without vulnerability. And that can be terrifying. After all, we’ve protected ourselves because that vulnerability led to us being hurt.

So here’s a brief story: I count myself lucky to have the best friend that I do. She’s amazing. But part of the reason the friendship has become so close is because one day, while at the drive in, I thought, “This friendship has potential, and I need to be vulnerable.” And so, maybe awkwardly, I opened up about one of my biggest struggles. It was horrifying. However, in that moment, I found safety, and it allowed for her to reciprocate on some of her dilemmas. It paid off, and now I have the most intimate and fulfilling friendship I’ve ever had. That relationship took being vulnerable. It wasn’t with just anyone, though. There is much to be said about reserving the deepest parts of ourselves for those who are ready and willing to guard them along with us. In the same way that we would not have sex with just anyone, the deepest pieces of our hearts should not be given to just anyone.

We must have boundaries, but it is healthy to have relationships in which we are able to be vulnerable.

So how do we establish those?

First and foremost, your leaders are a great place to start. You need to be able to be vulnerable and let your leaders into your life, your heart, your struggles. That’s part of being the body of Christ. Community fights for community. When you are weak, they stand in strength for you. We have to realize that our greatest fulfillment will come from Christ. 

If we get hurt in being vulnerable, we must realize that it is the person, not our God, who failed us. People are not God. They are going to let us down at some point.
One of the greatest days in my life was the day I forgave the person who most hurt me. It took 3 years to get to that day, and it’s been a process of learning to trust people to be in my life in the same way since the moment I got hurt. It has been the most rewarding process, though, as I learn to experience freedom in allowing my heartaches to be shared with those who desire the best for me.

I cannot give you the answer to living life vulnerable without that fear. It is a fear I am working through on a regular basis. But I am experiencing freedom. I am discerning who I can trust with those intimate pieces of me. I encourage you to do the same. Be vulnerable. Do it afraid, if you must. But trust that Christ will lead you to people who are “safe”, who will guard those pieces with you, that he will protect your heart.

To establish these relationships, start small. Then go big. Just start. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be a friendship that stands strong on vulnerability and intimacy. Test the waters before jumping in, but do not be afraid to get your toes wet. 

Tearing down the walls we have built, sometimes brick by brick, is a long (and painful, at times) process. As the walls fall, however, we are able to see things we were not previously able to. As the bricks are eliminated, we begin to see the hearts of the people around us, and they’re beautiful. Heartache will damage the potential to develop these relationships, and I am not discounting the pain. But in order to live the life God intended, intimacy and vulnerability are necessary.