The Need for Vulnerability


I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability in the last week or so after listening to Brené Brown’s interview with Krista Tippett on the podcast, On Being. And if I don’t get this off my mind, I might go cuckoo. Here’s a link to her Ted Talk about it:

As social beings, we wear masks depending on the “being” we’re engaging with or the situation we’re in. To protect ourselves, to avoid being vulnerable. In a basic animal sense it’s smart to be mindful of a would-be predator. However, over time, this became less and less necessary with the advent of a neat thing known as civilization. Was not the basis of human civilization (the division of labor) the first human being willing to be vulnerable? To finally close his/her eyes and say, “I trust you, my fellow man, to watch my space, as I sleep?”

Even in the most entrenched marriages (and I mean entrenched in a positive way), the longest of couplings, it is my belief that there is still something withheld. There is still a mask, just a different kind of mask, maybe one that’s a bit more transparent, but a mask all the same. It’s difficult to expose our true “being” to anyone in the ultimate sense of the word.


Nevertheless, is not vulnerability the crucible from which all else follows? Whether embracing or rejecting vulnerability, it seems most flows from that notion.

Courage, bravery, trust, honesty and love, even, just to name a few on the “embrace” side, stem from the willingness to be vulnerable. The willingness to stand when nobody else will. The willingness to go forth when nobody else will. The willingness to hand yourself and your many fallibilities over to another person, knowing they now possess the power to destroy you. To leave behind comfort, security and the “known.”

Fear, anger, cynicism, hatred and violence, even, just to name a few on the other side of the spectrum, manifest in the rejection of vulnerability. For believing it gullibility, naivete instead of the aforementioned courageous act it can be. We erect walls and mask-on-mask to avoid being hurt, not realizing that it’s in our hurt that we feel, that we truly live, even if it’s hard to see it at the time. That through the fog of the hurt comes the twilight of experience. That eventually, over time, if we persist in embracing vulnerability, it’ll be rewarded.

Or you end up on a Dateline special because you were murdered, your limbs dismembered and scattered in a dumpster, but hey, you staked your vulnerable flag at least! An opportunist just set fire to it…

I wanted to end on light note.


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