It’s a Hard Sell

Talking about vulnerability is hard.  Asking people to be vulnerable is a hard sell in this culture where being tough, denying grief, perfectionism, and always having to win in order to feel good for a minute are common expectations. The “sell” gets worse when we dig into the word.

Vulnerable. It has been in the English language since 1600. It is built from Latin words that mean “able to be wounded.” When we are vulnerable, we are woundable. That means that when we choose to be vulnerable with someone, we are choosing to expose our tender places to them.

That can be a physical thing, but since most humans are built the same way, we already know where another person’s physical vulnerabilities are.  We know that the stomach region is woundable. We know that our eyes are woundable. We know that fingers and toes can’t take much and are easily wounded if caught in the wrong places. 

When we talk about vulnerability, though, we are most often talking about our emotionally tender places, and on that score, what may be a tender place, emotionally, for me may not at all be a tender place for you. We all tend to walk around hiding those kinds of vulnerabilities just like how we would put our hands up or turn away if we sensed something coming at our stomach region. We are built to protect ourselves–physically and emotionally, and there is no shame in protecting, guarding and keeping our vulnerabilities to ourselves.

Until we are invited into expansion. There come times when opening up our vulnerabilities to another human being becomes expansive for both of us. We learn that we are not alone in a wounding; we are not alone in our search for healing; we are not alone in how to grow beyond the thing that first hurt us, and we can only do these things if we make our vulnerabilities known to each other. Those moments always ride the border between re-living suffering and finding and offering healing. Because sharing our vulnerabilities always lives in that both-and space, the pathway to vulnerability will always be a hard sell.  This month, we explore that pathway. 

~Bob Patrick

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