It is duckling season again; a duckling is a good image for vulnerability. They are small, young and fluffy venturing out into a big dangerous world. There are so many perils that face them cats, dogs, drains, cars, lack of food, cold. When I first decided to write about vulnerability for a social media project (initiated by Wholeness blog) I thought it would be easy. Vulnerability has lots to do with psychology, lots to do with theology and I love Brené Brown’s work on it, I can link it in with professional supervision and helping professions and I believe it’s important to talk about. But the question was; what does vulnerability mean to me? Not vulnerability as a psychology or theology topic not applying what Brené Brown learnt in her research to professional supervision.
What does vulnerability mean to ME?
I am posting a bit later than usual this week, because this was quite a difficult post to write. To write a post about vulnerability I had to explore my own vulnerability. Not just looking at it from the perspective of what would help others. You see inside I have a little duckling soft, fluffy, brown and yellow - vulnerable. It hardly ever sees the light of day, hidden as it is by layers of shell built up year after year. Hidden so deep that I am not even sure what it looks like anymore. I’ve delved down there and I want to share with you three areas in which I am vulnerable. I hope that some of you will relate to them, and that my sharing may encourage you to share your own vulnerabilities with your team and friends.
Some of my vulnerability is around being seen to be competent and independent. I don’t like asking for help or being ‘the needy’ person in a group. I suspect that this is something I inherited from my parents. One of the hardest things I have had to do, as for many people in ministry and mission is raise money for my salary. It put me in a very vulnerable place to ask friends and family to believe in my work enough to pay my salary. It creates even more vulnerability when you are struggling and not producing the results of your vision.
Some of my vulnerability is around my feelings. I don’t come from a generation or culture that was taught, supported or encouraged to share their feelings. So I struggle to express how I feel to others and if I am completely honest sometimes to even acknowledge how I feel to myself. My ability to share my feelings got worse after I struggled with burnout and infertility – basically there were no words deep and true enough to articulate how I felt, so I was unable to share with others. This developed into something of a habit of not sharing my feelings readily or easily.
Some of my vulnerability is around being told that I can’t trust my intuition. That what I believe to be true deep within me by instinct and intuition is wrong. I am particularly vulnerable to that one, because it usually taps into something that I find hard to articulate. It is very hard to counter what feels like an attack on a rational level, when you haven’t articulated the sensing, the intuition and the deep knowing that lie within. That is part of why I have enjoyed my professional supervision course so much, because it values the role of intuition and gut feelings and validates them, encourages us to use them to be good at our work of supervision. When I feel most confident and competent it is when I am supported to work with my intuition, my instinct and to listen to the still small voice that I identify as the Holy Spirit.
Sharing my vulnerabilities exposes my fluffy duckling to the peril of hurt, invalidation and self-doubt. Although I know for some of you rejection is a bigger issue. Brené Brown in her very popular Ted talk (Vulnerability Ted Talk )says that “what makes people vulnerable makes people beautiful.”
Is the world missing out on seeing your beauty because you are not able to share your vulnerability?
In a world where everything is processed to be the same and disclosure is managed to portray ourselves from our best side, isn’t it the imperfections, the vulnerabilities that make us distinctive, make us memorable. Although it is scary to share our vulnerabilities with others, the need for connecting well motivates us to take the risk. I know it is difficult, but we follow a God who chose to come to earth in the vulnerable form of a human baby.
Do we see the beauty in that vulnerable act? Do we see how much our God values vulnerability? Do we see the power of deep connection that sharing vulnerability offers?
We need to value vulnerability in our mission and ministry teams. This can be difficult for kiwis as it takes us time to trust others enough to share our vulnerabilities. There are so many vulnerabilities simmering under the surface of moving country, learning another language and being dependent on sponsors and churches back home. I wonder if all the teams that I have seen that have failed to bond and thrive as a team, come back to a lack of shared vulnerability. Sometimes it can be hard for Evangelical Christians to respond well to vulnerabilities, their emphasis on truth and resistance to difference can result in responses that increase self-doubt and discomfort for those sharing. Grace and love and a God who created us to be vulnerable need to guide the way. Leaders need to learn to be vulnerable and to encourage, support and value true vulnerability. We all need to be aware of the spoken and unspoken reactions to vulnerability that you are giving. I once shared something vulnerable, which was met with silence, and never mentioned again. The silence made me feel that the person didn’t want to truly see me and my disappointments, and struggles. I was unable to establish an honest relationship with them after that. When someone shows you their vulnerability, acknowledge their courage, ensure that they feel seen and heard and validated through how you react. See it as a request for connectedness, a chance to deepen your relationship.
What is your duckling, what is soft, fluffy and vulnerable inside of you, that you wish you could share with your team/friends but can't? How can your team make space for you to share that vulnerability?