Every now and then you hear, see or read something that completely shifts your perspective. About a week ago that happened to me and I’m still trying to process it. I watched a TED talk by the shame researcher Brene Brown and it was like someone had switched the lights on in my fuddled brain. Unfortunately, I’m still at the stage where my eyes are trying to adjust to my surroundings after being in the darkness for so long. My understanding of where this will take me is unclear but I wanted to write about it anyway. In fact, I just wanted to write again after losing my voice for so long.
For as long as I can remember, I have carried a significant fear that people will think I’m weak. You can think or say lots of things about me, but if you push that button then I will react. This feeling is often at its worst when I decide to put myself out there, share my feelings honestly or admit that I’ve failed. Despite this, I have always had the strong sense that being honest about who we are and where we’re at is important. I regularly feel prompted to share experiences from an authentic perspective as I know there are others out there grappling with the same kinds of things. I have had extremely positive responses to this as many people value authenticity and honesty, but I have also had many negative responses. The negativity surfaced through direct comments, less than subtle hints or by simply ignoring the information that was shared. Up to a week ago these were the responses I focused on and battled with. At times I have felt deeply conflicted as the fear of being seen as weak has led me to close my laptop and stop writing altogether.
About a week ago I discovered that what I thought was weakness, is actually vulnerability and that’s a whole different deal.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
On Monday it’s the 5th birthday of our facebook book club. We have read many brilliant books by amazing authors but the current one seems to be a favourite. In “It’s not supposed to be this way,” Lysa Terkeurst shares the painful details of the hardest season of her life. I think the book is resonating with so many of the group members because of the raw vulnerability outlined on every page. Through extremely difficult circumstances, Lysa puts one foot in front of the other, and shares the anger, joy, pain and vulnerability of her situation. Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, she showed up and wrote her book at a point where there was no guarantee of a happy ending. By sharing her story she wasn’t being weak, or attention seeking, she was letting herself be vulnerable, which is extremely courageous.
About a week ago, God reached into my muddled mind, turned on the light and with unbelievable clarity let me know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way I’m wired.
“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
The areas of my life where I feel weak can be transformed by trusting God to use that vulnerability and work it for good. Yes, there will be some who read this, roll their eyes and think, “why does she have to share this stuff?” There will be others who read this and think, “finally, someone gets where I’m at.” Either way, denying this part of me needs to stop. God designed me to be courageous through vulnerability and, although it absolutely scares me to death sometimes, I intend to keep doing it.
So what about the fear of criticism?
I’m not going to pretend for a second that I have that sussed. The goal isn’t to “not give a stuff what anyone thinks” as the research makes it clear that this just isn’t possible without completely disconnecting from people. The goal is to think carefully about what feedback I’m willing to take on board and who has earned the right to speak into my life.
“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
Brene Brown might be wording this a little more directly than I would but when I cover it with grace and compassion it sounds a little like this to me:
“If you’re asking me to forgive but not grappling with your own forgiveness issues;
if you feel that I overshare but you struggle to be honest with God and yourself;
if you criticise the way I am trying to honour God’s calling and yet you play it safe instead of being obedient to what He has asked you to do;
then despite feeling deep compassion for you and where you’re at, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10
The journey continues…