We live in a culture that abhors vulnerability. We are uncomfortable around it and this is especially true for men. You can’t be a man and be vulnerable in our society. Sometimes when you voice your vulnerabilities people pat you on the head, tell you this isn’t the time or place to bring that up and then ignore it. What’s interesting is that once you express your vulnerability you are no longer vulnerable.
I can understand a bit of the reluctance we feel about getting close to someone who expresses a weakness. Have you ever befriended someone who needed help, lots of help? Or been in a situation where it was as if you were a life guard trying to save someone and they were climbing on top of you pulling you under? I was a resident advisor in college and had a student on my floor that was mentally ill and suicidal. Dealing with her quickly escalated beyond my capacities. At times there are justifiable reasons to steer clear of people who need help. On the other hand have you been the person crying out for help? What do you do?
You can be vulnerable with someone that you trust. Only when you have a loyal trustworthy friend or family member can you be your naked self. Still even then there is a risk, especially if it is the first time sharing something significant with a new friend. You find out how far your friendship will go. Is it worth the risk? I have friends who have helped me through some huge challenges. Just having someone to talk to and cry with has been a great blessing. Friends who after I’ve exposed things that aren’t pretty, continued to be my friend and support me. It’s a gamble, a risk you take opening yourself up to a friend, becoming vulnerable. Ok, this is a stretch, but stay with me here, suppose a tabloid exposed my deepest darkest secrets? My friends would say “Yes, I knew about that, she is still my friend.” And if by chance someone told me something unsavory about a friend that they hadn’t shared with me, my reply would be “yes, so what, she is still my friend.” Friends are not vulnerable with each other; on the contrary, they are the hard shell around the soft center. They strengthen and protect one another. Is it worth the risk, being vulnerable and sharing yourself? Yes, it is and once you do, that strong deep friendship rarely goes away. Big chunks of time can elapse and the two of you are still connected. What a joy it is to have friends.
“A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” – William Penn
un·bos·om (n-bzm, -bzm)