I just sat with a friend who is asking himself some hard reflection questions.
Am I living my life in a way I won’t regret when the end of my days is near?
Is my house and family in order? Are my relationships solid?
Will I ever find a deep friend who pushes me to be better than I am?
How do I manage the anxiety I feel so regularly?
Many of us had the privilege this past weekend of celebrating Doug Hignell, a man who lived his life honestly, with great love, and finished well. What was said of him was inspirational, and unlike many memorial services, where the dearly departed is painted with rose colored glasses, this one was honest. Not a perfect life, not a perfectly upward path of growth, and yet Doug was a man who embraced growing and never stopped.
His life and how well he died is the cause for much celebration and much personal reflection on our own lives, which is where my friend and I found ourselves this morning.
My friend talked about longing for a friendship that would push him to be a better man, a better husband, a better follower of Jesus. A friendship where he can process the questions that are running through his heart and mind, keeping him awake at night. And yet, even knowing who that person could be, his fear is that he feels so needy he has “nothing to bring, nothing to give back in return.”
I found myself looking him square in the eye and saying this:
Your willingness to be honest and vulnerable is the gift that you bring.
Vulnerability is the gift.
It is a struggle for all of us, but especially for my male friends. Vulnerability is hard. It feels like weakness. It feels like exposing failure. And yet, it turns out that vulnerability requires a level of courage that is both strong and heroic. When we model a willingness to be vulnerable, we allow the person in front of us to let their guard down.
When we let our guards down, we can actually be seen and known for who we are. Not surprisingly, the greatest core desire of the human being is to be known. It is also our greatest fear. Is it possible to be known and to be loved despite the knowledge?
Having just spent the week in New York City with a few hundred other marketing agency owners, I saw a lot of posturing. Many people put on their masks, painted their lives and businesses with the brushstrokes of pure, unchallenged success, and let you bask in their glory.
They only let you see their “front of stage.” The polished up, hair and makeup done, choreographed performance part of their lives. So we end up comparing our “back of stage” to their “front of stage” and feel less adequate around each other. What an incredible lost opportunity that is.
In a world of posturing, whether in person or all over social media, finding the person who is willing to have an honest conversation about the good, the bad, and the ugly is like a cool drink of water. Like the image in this post, we all have cracks in our jars, but cracks are where the light shines through.
Vulnerability is the gift.
Yes, you have to choose wisely. No, I’m not suggesting you bare your soul on social media (in fact, please don’t for everyone’s sake).
What I am saying is that every one of us has the opportunity to care well for each other, to mentor each other, and to live our lives more fully if we give the gift of vulnerability in our relationships.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to just about anything written by Brene Brown on this subject. She is “the vulnerability expert” of our times and her volume of work on the subject is incredible. The TED talk she gave in June 2010 launched her into the spotlight and if you haven’t heard it, it will be a well invested 20 minutes. Check it out here.
I am grateful for the friends in my life who know me through and through (you know who you are!) Their knowledge of the truth of my life gives me courage to press on and proves to me that I am lovable even with the ugly truths along the journey.
I am praying for my friend that he makes the choice to believe that his vulnerability and sense of neediness can be a gift worth giving, and that in doing so his own life will be enriched.
Are you struggling with believing you can be known and still loved? You might find an earlier post entitled Hard Truth and Ridiculous Grace to be helpful. I want to encourage and challenge you to take the risk and test the waters with someone you trust. Give the gift of vulnerability. I really think the reward will be worth the risk.