We keep our distance. We put up walls. All because we believe vulnerability will come back to kick us in the behind, or even kill us. Something recently happened that changed my mind about my new friend vulnerability.
I used to write headlines for Bible Study Magazine. I don't anymore. But I didn't figure out that I stink at writing headlines on my own. In fact, I thought I was pretty good at it. I'm not. After some critique from leaders more skilled than myself, I decided to stop writing headlines. I turned to our artists and said, "I can't write headlines worth squat. I need your help." That decision made our entire magazine better. Our art is better. Our concepts are better. The narrative arc of our magazine is better. Everything is better. We now tell a story together.
I went from being "Mr. Know-it-All" to "Mr. I-Can't-Pull-This-Off-Without-You." Dynamics changed. I learned. We grew together. Because I decided to be vulnerable. And I have realized that in my friendships, I have to do the same. I won't grow if I don't admit to my friends what I stink at. Likewise, my relationship with God won't grow if I don't confess my weaknesses.
Paul realized this. In his second letter to the Corinthians, in the midst of rebuking them (primarily for misunderstanding him and not believing him), he says that "a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited." I cannot think of a more difficult time to be honest than in a major dispute that could result in you being demoted from your position. Yet, in this circumstance, Paul brings up his weakness. Why? Because honesty works. People respect it. Paul goes onto say that God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." He follows this by saying, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He will boast in his weaknesses? Is he insane? No. That's strength. That's a leader. That's someone who is friends with vulnerability.
But before this Paul was a hedger: someone who is never vulnerable, but instead protective. I was in similar shoes. Where did I learn to hedge all my headlines in unnecessary jargon? Where did I learn to hedge my life experiences, and weaknesses? I spent several years in the academic guild where I learned to describe (in great detail) what I planned to write and how I planned to write. That's boring. I still catch myself applying this principle to my writing. It's still boring. When we hedge our writing, our art form, or just our conversations, we miss out -- both on our potential, and the potential of our relationships. We miss out on what God wants to do inside of us and through us.
Donald Miller, in his writing workshop Into the Elements available on DVD from BlueFish TV, says something similar about writing: "I have less limits than most people when it comes to being completely honest. So I write about that zone most people are scared to write about. But there is a wall. You know the place that I would only tell you about after I have known you for 15 years. And when I reach that wall, my fingers begin to tremble. To really be a great writer though, to gain the trust of the reader, you have to hand them the gun. You have to write about the wall. And for that reason I wrote about the fact that I wet the bed until age eleven or twelve" (a paraphrase).
Don's right. We have to be willing to hand people the gun. How would your relationships with other people change if you were willing to hand them the gun? How would our world look differently if we were all willing to be friends with vulnerability? How would it help us, and others, to see the infinite God at work in everything?
Note: I received a review copy of Into the Elements for free from BlueFish TV. Nonetheless, I only endorse products I personally use and believe are helpful.