09 November, 2016

On Vulnerability

It started with a statement from my music teacher. We were sitting at her piano, in the throes of exam preparation, discussing a couple of pieces which required deeper expression and interpretation than I had been playing with. My teacher told me she knew I had the place to draw from because I always pick the most soulful of pieces. Her solution answered so many questions I didn’t even know I had. She said, “You’re shy.”

Looking back, I can see it cropping up often. I had the feelings, the desires, even intentions, but I was too shy to let it out. In order to give music the depth it required, or share my deepest feelings and express my desires as in the other situations, I had to open up. I had to be vulnerable.

I don’t like that word. It makes me think of some poor animal, a fawn perhaps, exposed and powerless before an enemy. It seems synonymous with weakness, helplessness. That’s not something I want to be. 

But since that conversation with my teacher, I’ve realised art and creativity require vulnerability.

If I wrote a song, my story would come through lyrics; my soul would be in the melody.

If I wrote a book, my heart would be in the pages, my ambitions in every character.

If I painted a picture, my concepts would be on the canvass.

If I designed a garment, my tastes and preferences would be reflected. 

If I cooked a meal, my style of food, and my mood of the day, would be conveyed.

All creativity requires vulnerability. It’s taking something hidden inside us, and giving it a medium to come out. Suddenly, we’re exposed. 

Even creativity in the simplest of ways: every time you put on an outfit, pick a new item of clothing, do your hair, you’re being vulnerable. Your style and taste is in front of everyone, open for their evaluation.

Vulnerability brings us together too. By being open before God and open before others, we can encourage, inspire, influence, and prompt change. It draws us together, forms bonds. It takes us from being introspective and self-centred to realising we’re closer to each other than we thought, and having opportunity to change lives.

This is the tiniest example, but in my post Springs in the Wilderness, I began by stating I had been spiritually dry. For me, that was being vulnerable. I didn’t want to tell everyone my relationship with God isn’t where it should be. I didn’t need everyone to know I have doubts. I didn’t need to give people an opportunity to judge me as a hypocrite. But as a result, others opened up and shared their own struggles, and we were able to encourage each other. We were brought closer together, and though I may never meet those girls, we have helped each other trust God’s promises. How amazing is that?!

I was thinking about why Psalms is one of most read books in the Bible. Is it because there’s a prayer for every situation? Is it because the poetic beauty captures our attention? That must be part of it, but I think the real reason is that Psalms is one of the most vulnerable books in the Bible. David opens every part of his heart in the psalms, and expresses His desire for God, his rage against his enemies, his doubts, his fears, his hopes, his failings. When we read it, we relate. The exposure brings us closer. It impacts our lives. We feel David’s pain, experience his victory, and draw closer to his God.

God Himself is vulnerable. He exposes His character for everyone to see; opens Himself up for our ridicule and misunderstanding; and reveals Himself through creation, His word, and personal experience. I think He’s the definition of true vulnerability.

But something stands in the way of being vulnerable: fear. It’s scary revealing parts of ourselves, and opening up to others' judgements.  It’s safer wearing masks, staying behind bounds, being someone else, hidden, buried, trapped. People’s comments hurt less; people’s criticisms aren’t so personal. No one can intentionally hurt my feelings if they don’t know what they are. But fear is a trap.  It’s a barrier that closes around us, and stops us from being who we were created to be. God says “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). He wants us to be secure in His love, and live unashamed, unbound; free. 

I’m not suggesting a life of total exposure where everyone knows everything, or sharing emotions to manipulate others. I’m not saying this world needs more bed-head selfies and breakfast photos. It needs more heart, more soul. It needs more art. It needs more honesty, more genuineness, more humility. It needs vulnerability. 

Our heart is a muscle. It hurts to open it up, stretch it. It’s not always going to be comfortable being vulnerable. But a heart emptied equals a heart filled. If it can bring a little hope to humanity, bring people together, let someone realise they’re not alone, draw us closer to God’s ideal, I think it’s worth the risk. God’s opinion is more important than what others think. Being who God made me to be is more important than being who others want me to be. Being uncomfortable for the cause of God is more important than living life protected in a hard case. It goes against everything in me, but by His grace, I want to be vulnerable.


P.s This blog is where I share most openly. Admittedly, it isn’t much, but you guys have seen more of my heart and soul than I reveal to a lot of people, and I want to say a huge thank-you for making this a safe and supportive place.

~

Is there something you have been ruminating on recently? What are your thoughts on vulnerability? And how do you think we can use vulnerability to bless and encourage others? I'm eager to hear!

33 comments:

  1. Hello Jessica. Very thoughtful post on vulnerability I am a Pastor from Mumbai, India. I am blessed and feel privileged and honored to get connected with you as well as know you through yhour rofile on the blogger and the blog post. I love getting connected with the people of God around the globe to be encourged,s trengthened and praying for one another. I have been in the Pastoral ministry for last 37 yrs in this great CITY OF Mumbai a city with a great contrast where richest of rich and the poorest of poor live. We reach out to the poorest of poor with the love of Christ to bring healing tot he brokenhearted. we also encourage young and the adult from the west to come to Mumbai to work with us during their vacation time. We would love to have you come to Mumbai your friends to work with us during your vacation time. I am sure you will have a life changing experience. Looking forward to hear from you very soon. God's richest blessings on you, your family and friends.

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    1. Hi Diwaker! Thanks for your comment – it’s encouraging to hear of your work reaching out to others and sharing God’s love – and for the offer as well. I have plans for these holidays, but thanks anyway. Blessings back to you and the work you're doing.

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  2. Jessica, oh, dear girly! You got me on the topic, but really got me in the vulnerability. Thanks for being so open. You are inspiring and I really like the challenge you pose. Neither extreme is necessary - but "more heart, more soul". Oh, I like that! I have found that opening up about even little struggles, without dwelling on them, certainly provides a chance to really connect. I really like being vulnerable. And yet, yes, I do worry way too much about what others might thing. This. So good. Thank you! <3

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    1. Hey Stella! Thanks so much for sweet your comment – praise God you enjoyed this. :) I’m glad you’re in on this concept of vulnerability to connect, and share more heart and soul. :) Your statement about actually liking it too – that’s really encouraging that even though it’s scary at times, it can become a part of life we enjoy. Thank you!

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  3. OH MY I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! This is so thoughtful and so true! While I don't consider myself the shyest person out there, I hate vulnerability. I struggle in writing because I know I'm showing the world (or at least my siblings and editor at the moment), a piece of myself and it's scary. My characters bleed who I am and I really don't like being opened so easily.
    Blogging has also made me vulnerable because it's 86 people seeing who I am. It's odd getting e-mails from girls once in awhile and them knowing more about me then a stranger usually does. BUT I know that God has called me for a purpose and He knows what He wants me to do for a reason.
    Lovely post! I love this. ♥

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    1. Praise God, and thanks a lot for leaving a comment and sharing! I know what you mean – pretty much all my writing, except what’s on here, no one else sees. And I haven’t written even written a novel, where I’m sure the characters become so much more personal..

      Your heart for doing what God wants is so inspiring, Kara. Keep sharing Him and being a blessing through your blog! Thanks again for your encouraging comment! xx

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  4. This is so inspiring! :)

    Have a great rest of your week, Jessica!

    With love and all joy,
    Allie D.
    www.alliesblogdesigns.blogspot.com
    www.friendlovesatalltimes.blogspot.com
    www.sincerelyallied.blogspot.com
    www.spreadingmyjoy.blogspot.com

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    1. Praise God! And thanks for your comment – you have a great week too! :)

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  5. Wow. You got me fixated from the first paragraph! This was so inspiring!
    Thank you so much for sharing this, and being open.
    <3,
    Paige

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    1. Oh praise God, Paige! It’s only through Him. Thanks for your sweet comment, and by the way, I really like that word fixated – thanks for introducing it to me! :)

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  6. You know I love this!!
    I've never really thought about the connection between vulnerability and helplessness, but I can totally see how that would be a thing.
    Being vulnerable is scary and raw. It's us breaking free from the false illusion of perfection. And it's so so hard to put it out there! So thanks Jessica. Thank you for choosing to smash fear in the face.
    Thanks for reminding me, and so many others, that we're not alone.
    love you!

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    1. Wow, you are so encouraging, Elissa! Thanks a lot for your support and kind words.

      Yes, it is hard to give up our illusions and masks; protective hard cases, as I think of them. But I was just thinking about your comment there, linking vulnerability and helplessness. It does make us helpless, but that drives us to depend on God and be so much closer to Him. Thanks for prompting that thought, and I have to say, your blog really inspires me to be more vulnerable – I always appreciate your openness and honesty. Sending love back! xx

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  7. Lovely post, we do need more genuine and vulnerable people in this world.

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    1. All praise to Him! And yes, I agree – genuineness seems to be sadly lacking these days. Thanks for your comment. :)

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  8. Vulnerability is the scariest thing. But we need it in this world. We need to crush that fear and be genuine. It's the only way we can grow. <3

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    1. Amen! You're so right, it is the only way we grow - on so many levels too: grow personally, grow closer to others, grow closer to God, etc. Thanks for reading and commenting! xx

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  9. This post. <3
    For me, the problem is definitely sharing. When I'm alone, I can play the song with emotion, or write a really tender scene, but when someone else enters the picture, I clam up. I guess, like you said, I'm just afraid -- afraid of what people would think of something so deeply "me".
    I wonder if it's easier for extroverts...since they thrive on interaction they might be more willing to risk vulnerability. Something like that. :)
    By the way, is that some form of eucalyptus in the picture? It looks like the dried branches I love putting into wreaths. So pretty!
    Thanks for the post! I was thinking about letting someone read one of my stories today, and this was encouraging to read :)
    -Mary

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    1. Yes! It's the same here; it just doesn't happen when there are people within earshot or in the room. In that way, blogging is fabulous because you can't see your audience. :) Hmm yes, it would be interesting to hear an extrovert's perspective on this.

      And yes again - that is eucalyptus in the photo. :) I picked a few little branches for the photo because I liked the leaves (as you said, they're pretty!). We have them growing everywhere here (well, gum trees everywhere; that particular variety isn't as common as some others).

      Anyway, excuse the long-winded reply. Thanks for this comment; it's always nice to hear from you! :)

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  10. I love love LOVE this whole post, and especially as it comes on the heels of the election. This is so much more important in so many ways.
    True and unselfish vulnerability is so HARD. I wish I could say I achieve it but I so rarely do. Even in art/music. Art helps though, art is a beginning and and unlocking. And your pointing out God's 'vulnerability' is so powerful. It just shatters what we think of as 'vulnerable' and turns it into this majestic, shining thing. And yet also takes you to the cross. Ugh this post is so thought provoking over all, I'm saving it to re-read for sure xx

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    1. Thanks so much - praise God, seriously. :) It is hard.. especially being vulnerable for totally unselfish reasons. Oh, I like your thoughts about God's vulnerability and how it leads to the cross - that's so powerful. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Thanks for sharing! And reading and commenting too. :) xx

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  11. I was thinking about vulnerability recently. It was less with regards to creativity and more with regards to beliefs, but I was thinking about vulnerability nonetheless. I was thinking about how I don't always read the Bible correctly; how I sometimes misinterpret it; how my thoughts aren't always aligned with the Truth. And often I'm scared to share what I believe I understand from it because "What if someone tells me that I'm wrong?"

    I'm very thankful for the Holy Spirit who teaches us even while we're on earth and who helps us understand God's written Word. But on the other hand, I think that as long as I'm still here on earth, I will misinterpret the Bible. That's not to be discouraged and seek out God's intended meaning any less diligently, but I think that I need to be willing to be vulnerable - to acknowledge that I'm not always right (far from it!) and to be willing to learn from others.

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    1. That's amazing you were thinking about the same thing! I hadn't thought about it from the perspective of beliefs before.. It's so true though. It is scary to think that we may misinterpret the Bible and then share it with others. But yes, as you say, it's encouraging that the Holy Spirit teaches us! And if we live up to what we understand, God will bless our efforts.. And realising there's always more to learn would keep us humble too. Thanks a lot for bringing up that aspect of vulnerability, Jordy! It's given me even more to think about. :)

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    2. I do like discussing things with you a lot, so it's a pleasure. X)

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    3. And, I feel the same way about discussing things with you! :D

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  12. I appreciate vulnerability a lot. I'm drawn to emotional people.. I admire them. I see it as being strong to let people see your 'weakness'.
    It's great to read your thoughts on this blog. You do help a lot of people. :)
    You're doing great!

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    1. Yes, that's true - it takes more strength to be open and real, than to hide what we're really feeling..

      Thanks a lot for your encouragement. You're so kind and thoughtful. xxx

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  13. Vulnerability is so hard but it can lead to the very best conversations, with the most meaning and if you are vulnerable others can help you which many people want to do!

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    1. Yes! It seems to be so important in a lot of areas of life.. Thanks for you comment, Clare! :)

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  14. I realize that I am very late to comment on this wonderful post... but here I am! =)

    When I began the process of writing, it amazed me how vulnerable you have to be. Without knowing it, I pour myself into every character, chapter, plot twist, and every other aspect of story. The littlest things show parts of my heart even though readers will never realize it. Perhaps that's why negative reviews hurt so bad sometimes...it's easy for an author to take that note meaning "you failed" or "you aren't good enough." Praise God that I don't have to be good enough! He already is enough for me!

    I have learned recently the beauty of being vulnerable with deep friends. When you admit what you are struggling with it often opens up the other person to confessing that they are going through similar trials. If you have the right friend, you both leave the conversation feeling stronger and encouraged in your faith. Such a blessing! ♥

    Thank you for being open and eager to share your thoughts with us. You blog is very inspiring and never ceases to point to Who really matters.

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    1. Welcome! ;)

      Hmm, yes I've noticed that with writing too - but not nearly to the same extent, I'm sure, considering I've never written a novel with characters, plot, etc. I imagine negative reviews would be hard, thinking about in light of that.. Your dependence on God though, is so inspiring.

      Yes, it is a blessing to have friends to share with. It's always amazing when it turns out you're struggling with the same things, and you can be an encouragement to each other, isn't it?!

      Oh, praise God, and thanks for thoughtfulness and encouragement, Hosanna! xx

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  15. I understand that. If artists never shared their vulnerability, we would have a very different idea of art. And as you said, it doesn't seem possible to leave vulnerability out of creativity. It reminds me of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and how the artist didn't want to sell his picture not because it revealed too much of the subject, but it revealed too much of himself. I love the concept, and you put it eloquently. :)

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    1. Yes, imagine what art, of all forms, would be like! It does reveal the artist so much.. I'm glad you could relate, Jo, and thanks a lot for reading and blessing me with a comment. :)

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