Probably my age and stage in life but I am getting more sensitive (that's very funny John). No seriously I cry at TV ads and even the mention of tear jerking stories. I am sure I am going through some type of hormonal change (no jokes please). But I know I am much more aware of the preciousness and speed of life and my awareness about the world around me has been heightened. I see, hear, feel, and understand more–at least I think so.
Vulnerability is a word I encounter and use more often. It applies to so much of what I do and what I am thinking about.
susceptible to physical or emotional harm.
synonyms: helpless, defenseless, powerless, impotent, weak, susceptible
person(s) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.
We are all vulnerable. There are the truly vulnerable–those who have little or no support systems or safety nets. People who have extraordinary suffering daily. And there is the condition of connecting with the real feelings we have with the suffering around us.There are the vulnerable who need our help. And yet we all need to become more vulnerable–to be more susceptible to our feelings empathy and compassion. Vulnerable are people who are endangered and need help to advance their lives. Vulnerable is also a state of mind and heart that enable us to help the vulnerable.
Still with me?
A lot of guilty people, including me, start sentences with "It breaks my heart that……." We need to break our hearts—break them open to the truth and realities of what we want, who we are, and what we are doing about it.
Our capacity for wholehearted living can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted. Brene Brown
From Parker Palmer's book the Healing the Heart of Democracy:
My favorite quote:
Comfort the afflicted (the vulnerable) and afflict the comfortable (to make us vulnerable). –HL Mencken I added the parenthetical comments to show this dichotomy of vulnerability.
You still with me?
How do we help those in need and our own need to help?
We all hesitate to say and do what we think–the things we know are right. We try to suppress our feelings, or hope that the moment will pass. We pretend that the moment and feelings do not matter. We regret those lost moments.
Brene Brown has done groundbreaking research on this latter vulnerability. Her Ted talk is one of the most viewed ever. She found that vulnerability is the source of great insights and development and ultimately a chance to be courageous and say and do things we want to do.
Excerpt from Brene Brown: I cannot find a single example of courage, moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership courage, relational courage, I cannot find a single example of courage in my research that was not born completely of vulnerability. And so I think we buy into some mythology about vulnerability being weakness and being gullibility and being frailty because it gives us permission not to do it.
Please listen to this interview of Brene Brown conducted by the inimitable Krista Tippett. If you are slightly open to becoming more vulnerable this will open your mind and your heart.
We share everything but not what we really think and feel. We conform to the crowd not because we agree with them.
My boss calls it phony nice. But it is more than being honest with one another. It is being honest with oneself.
The present offers so many moments to engage our compassion, empathy, and energy for life. But we squander them. I am trying to change before it is too late.
Awareness is step one.
Force yourself to follow your heart to learn the realities of the vulnerable and become vulnerable. Push yourself into the worlds of suffering you care about. Surrender to the feelings and let them inform you and what you do.
Not talking about serving soup at the midnight mission–although that would not hurt. I am talking about diving into the needs of your network and listen– before you try to fix things!
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle–a battle you know little about. attributed to Philo
What are other people's battles? Seek them out to understand and help.
What are your battles? What are you numb about? What is your heart saying? Help yourself.
Until we understand our battles we can not connect or mentor. We can not help one another.
Compassion literally means to suffer with others. We cannot have compassion.
Becoming more vulnerable enables us to help the vulnerable. Every person has a battle. Every person has dreams. Every person wants to have an open heart and the courage to act on their true goodness.
In my greyness I am coming to realize that Brene Brown and Parker Palmer are right. Pursue vulnerability by becoming more vulnerable. Struggle over real things and real feelings is a battle, a battle worth fighting, battles we must try to win over numbness.
Thanks for reading. John