After my husband, Christopher, and I teach together, people often approach us and say, “You two are so vulnerable!” Their feedback is infused with equal parts awe and trepidation.
Their responses are correct. We do share vulnerably. In fact, we do more than teach out loud. For whatever reason, God seems to have called both of us to a lifestyle of vulnerability.
This is not always easy. I recently did a radio show with a male host I had never spoken with before and the focus was marital sex. You really can’t be guarded or obfuscate when talking about this topic. At least not if you want to be helpful.
Costs of Living Vulnerably
Living like an open book has specific drawbacks. Honesty is risky. We have frequently been misunderstood and/or judged. When we admit how and where we struggle, others can scurry to moral high ground and look down on us. Other friends—and some family members—have told us that they often feel intimidated by our candor.
Though the costs are tangible—and sometimes painful—we believe that in the long run, the benefits are worth the expense.
Our choice to live vulnerably means that if we’re in a small group meeting and the prompt is What were your highs and lows during Covid?, we’re not going to gloss over the challenges or hide the discouragement that we both felt. And if we’ve been invited to confess our sins, we’re not going to be vague or tidy up our confession. We’re going to name it and own it.
We don’t live vulnerably because we’re exhibitionists. To be honest, I’m a private person and prefer to keep my weaknesses and failures hidden. What Christopher and I have discovered in the context of our own marriage, however, and in our nearly 30 years of doing pastoral care, is that if we want to grow, we have to have both feet in reality. We can’t live in denial. Denial encourages us to spackle over our fault lines and create façades that might look pretty but won’t hold up when the inevitable storms of life hit.
This week, I listened to a podcast of yet another high-profile Christian leader/pastor/artist who has left the faith. One of the many things that struck me about her testimony (if I can use that word) was that for several years, she was on stage before thousands of people (as a very young adult, mind you) saying things about which she had serious doubts and reservations. I wonder, might things have gone differently if she had valued integrity over her role as a celebrity expert? Might she have experienced less cognitive dissonance and been able to find her way through if she had acknowledged her doubts and stepped back from the spotlight sooner?
Benefits of Living Vulnerably
We’re living in a time when appearance and popularity have more weight than self-awareness and honesty. Thanks to social media, we have the capacity to curate ourselves and create an idealized version of who we are. Mind you, I’m not advocating that we indiscriminately share our most intimate details on the Internet. I am advocating that we have integrity. That we aim to be the same person regardless of who we’re with or what we’re doing.
Living vulnerably and sharing honestly keeps us accountable. It prevents us from forgetting how broken we are and how much we need a Savior. It invites others to see us and love us even when we’re a mess. When friends and family members choose to love us even after seeing our cracks and flaws, we can trust that their love is genuine. This is such a relief and leads to greater freedom.
Living vulnerably also provides companionship. When Christopher and I share about how we’ve navigated our disappointment or what it looks like to love when we don’t feel like loving, others can breathe a sigh of relief and know they’re not alone.
You may not be called to talk about the intimate details of your life in public spaces but if you hope to grow and experience freedom from some of your bad habits or besetting sins, try honest vulnerability. I promise: it gets easier the more you do it.