Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Strength and Vulnerability

Disclaimer: I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic the entire semester. I still don’t have all of my ideas the way I’d like them, and I know that there is so much to say about this subject. I won’t be able to express my thoughts exactly the way I want to, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I am showing you my vulnerability by writing about vulnerability.

In Ether 12, Moroni writes a beautiful discourse about faith. However, half-way through the chapter, he interrupts his sermon and begins to write down his doubts and insecurities about his worthiness of his calling—the record-keeper. He does not feel like he is a good-enough writer and compares himself to other great writers of the Book of Mormon (especially the Brother of Jared). Moroni expresses his concerns to God—expresses that he is weak, vulnerable, even, and he fears that his weakness will make the Book of Mormon susceptible to mockery and ridicule.
As Moroni laments over his vulnerability, the Lord offers this counsel:
“Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness. And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:26-27).

This seems paradoxical: when we’re weak, we’re strong? But it doesn’t mean that weakness equates to cowardliness or being a pushover. There is a deeper meaning to vulnerability; a strength that comes from recognizing our weakness and opening ourselves up to others. I believe there is power in vulnerability. There is strength in meekness. And the weak things of the world can overcome the mighty and proud. 

I don't know how many of you have watched Brené Brown's TED Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability," but I highly recommend it. (In fact, go watch it. Go watch it right now. Here’s the link. It's about 20 minutes long, and worth every minute.)

In her speech, Brown talks about how she always equated vulnerability with shame, fear, and weakness, and then set out to prove her point through research. However, she found that "wholehearted individuals" (her term), are individuals who are happy with who they are and believe that they are worthy of being loved and accepted actually embrace vulnerability; they don't turn away from it. Their courage, compassion, and connection to others is brought about by being vulnerable and authentic. Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, and allows us to be whole, loved, and connected. It's an interesting idea--life-changing, even. 

Vulnerability comes to play in relationships—family relations, friendships, or romantic relationships. You have to be willing to put yourself “out there”—you have to be willing to love and care, and you have to be willing to get hurt. Love is vulnerability. It is opening up your heart to someone; it is letting them see your insides—the good and the bad parts. It is giving that same heart to someone else and hoping that he or she will take care of it—that they won’t give it back, drop it on the ground, or damage it in any way . . . but instead cherish it—cherish you. That hope is vulnerability. Relationships require both sides to be committed to vulnerability.
“And then you take that love you made and stick it into some-
            Someone else’s heart, pumping someone else’s blood
            And walking arm-in-arm, you pray it don’t get harmed
            But even if it does, you just do it all again.” ~Regina Spektor, On the Radio

Vulnerability and love go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other. That is why love—especially choosing to love—is so frightening. By reaching out and giving of ourselves, we show our vulnerability. We “put ourselves out there,” not knowing how the other will receive us—if they will accept us or reject us. We hope they will—pray that they will take us and accept us and care for us like we want to care for them—but in the end, we don’t know how it will be received until it is . . . or until it’s not received, as can often be the case.

And then what?
Well, it hurts. It hurts an awful lot. We’re all experienced that aching pain of heartbreak, and we know that the radio waves practically swim with breakup songs and songs about unrequited love. But just as we’ve experienced that pain, we know that we've just as easily inflicted it on others.
But just because it hurts doesn’t mean we should give up.
It also doesn’t mean that we should throw caution to the wind and purposefully allow ourselves to get hurt. Our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls have defense mechanisms for a reason. There are some people we shouldn’t trust with our innermost, sacred selves.
But if we put up too many walls, no one will be able to find us in order to love us . . . we'll come to a point where we'll be so hardened that we can't love ourselves or anyone else around us. 
I believe that we have to decide to overcome fear in order to create healthy, lasting, loving relationships.

I see BYU students’ fear of being vulnerable all of the time . . . and I’m not excluded. We’re afraid of getting hurt, or of hurting someone else, and so we don’t act. We just don’t act. We’re paralyzed by fear and so we stay in the same place, without giving or taking—just breathing, never moving forward. But "to choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation" (Yann Martel, Life of Pi). When we close ourselves off or refuse to take chances, it's because we figure that the risks loom larger and hurt more than the joy the possible rewards could bring. But by closing ourselves, we lose any opportunity to form wonderful friendships, relationships, and have incredible opportunities for growth.

I believe more and more every day that love is a choice. And since it is a choice, it requires faith and action. Part of that action means being vulnerable—opening yourself up and letting someone else open himself up to you, too. If we choose to become hardened and calloused, then we cannot receive the love that people want to give us. Even more importantly, we cannot give. We may be safe, yes, but safe from what? Safe from hurt? Perhaps. But also cut off from growth, change, and refinement. Safe from fear? But if we close ourselves off from others, we are acting out of fear and not from love. What do we keep out as we close ourselves off in our self-made citadels of pride and fear?

It is when we open ourselves up to love others and to allow others to love us that we find beauty. Vulnerability gives us strength. It gives us more opportunities to love and for others to love us. It helps us find who we truly are and gives us confidence. It deepens us. Sometimes it breaks our hearts, but then—as long as we choose to not let fear overcome us—it gives us empathy. We are able to care more and to understand more.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say (and this is just as much for me as for anyone who reads my blog—all five of you) is don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable. Be genuine. Open up. Ask that girl out. Talk to your crush. Make a new friend. Decide to fall in love. Decide to be willing to move a relationship forward. Take a chance. Reach out. Share a secret. Share of yourself. Forgive. Love.
“Perfect love casteth out all fear.”

See also: 


  1. I didn't even know you blogged! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. Excellent post! It was very good reminder and enlightening.
    I love the cover of this song. Your post reminded me of it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzlQoSg7tTU

  3. Thanks, Greg and Amy! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, Greg, I blog. Mostly for sanity's sake.
    And Amy, I really like that song!

  4. This is so beautiful I am in tears. Wow.