I am writing my thoughts in response to a facebook thread regarding this post by the lovely Kylee Shields.
I have watched both of Brene Brown's Tedx Talks on this over and over and have tried to understand this in my own context and life. I think Todd put it beautifully, "vulnerability is a preemptive declaration of forgiveness that we offer to those we meet." Ah, SO TRUE! With much love and respect to Daniel Woolston, whose ideas and opinions I often deeply cherish, I disagree with the statement, "when you care about someone so much that you start caring more about the other person than you do about yourself, precisely BECAUSE you know that they will do the exact same thing in return." It's a beautiful thought. But, I guess I feel like there is more to the picture.
I used to think of love this way. I realized that subconsciously I was trying to love myself through someone else. If I can love them and give them all of me, and they can provide that in return, then I can feel the love that I was truly craving for myself. When I put it like that, it just sounded selfish. Instead now I think of loving another as, "I'll be better for ME, for you. And you be better for YOU, for me."
We need to stop associating vulnerability with weakness. We need to stop associating vulnerability with being needy. Vulnerability is the willingness to love, embrace, forgive, accept, trust, and have faith in God, ourselves and others without a NEED for anything in return. What???! No need for ANYTHING?! But we all have basic needs right? We all need God's love. We all need to feel connected. We all need to be loved, right? I often think I have a great ability to love people unconditionally. Then, I get hurt. And I get upset that I get hurt. Why did I get hurt? Because I had a condition... "I will love you completely and utterly 100% BUT in order to be whole myself, I have a need for YOU to be a certain way. I have a need for YOU to love me back. I have a need for YOU to accept me. I have a need for YOU to never let me down, etc. etc." Well, sure, we have a basic desire for these things. That's not wrong. Surely you expect your spouse to be faithful, your parent to love you and support you and not abuse you, your friends to be loving and true. That is what they're SUPPOSED to do, right? Well, what if they don't? Can you still love them unconditionally? Can you still be vulnerable? What if they are hurting us? Are we not supposed to love and have compassion on those who willfully hurt us?
I then look to Christ's example. Does Christ love us unconditionally? Yes. Does Christ love us even when we don't love Him back? Yes. So much so that He suffered and died to atone for each of us. Even in the midst of being scoffed, scorned, afflicted and crucified, receiving the cruelest the world could provide he uttered a prayer of forgiveness to His offenders. So, would Christ deem it wrong to love others who are not reciprocating that love?
I suppose THAT to me is the true meaning of vulnerability. Showing up in full love, truly willing to give of oneself with the complete acceptance that that person may fully reject you, even willfully hurt you. That thought may seem disempowering, but there are some key things to know in order to embrace this mode of operating.
A) You are completely worthy of love, with absolutely no condition. You are completely enough, perfect, even, on a soul level. Sure, imperfect on a human level, but your true identity is always enough and always full of worth. Nobody's rejection of you can take that away. Do you think God mopes around and starts thinking about how terrible He is when someone doesn't love Him? NO! He sends MORE love!!!!!
B) Everything you need will always be provided for you. If you need love, it will be there. The problem is, we fixate on HOW, WHERE or WHO that is going to show up from.
C) We must not close ourselves off to RECEIVING. It is vulnerable to receive love when we don't feel worthy of it, when we feel weak, when we feel inadequate OR, when we deem vulnerability and receiving as weakness or inadequacy. You must make yourself vulnerable (not WEAK!) to receive love where love IS. You do this by loving yourself first and knowing that you are worthy to receive.
D) When we show up in that kind of love, by law, God brings us more of it. Love, beauty, miracles, soul expansion, abundance, joy, creation and every beautiful and empowering thought/feeling you can have find their way to us because that is a reflection of who we are BEing. The people who are here to love us and the work we came here to do will show up because of our complete willingness to receive and to take the risk of being vulnerable.
E) Certain people will NOT have the ability to show us the love we desire (maybe ever, or maybe just at the time we met them in life). I believe there is a divine reason for this. We must first seek this love from God and then from ourselves (WITHIN!) Then we don't NEED it from anyone (OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES!) God will show it to us anyway through infinite ways, people, experiences. I believe part of our mission in this life is to discern where love is NOT.
F) In discerning where love is NOT, we may want to put up boundaries. These boundaries are not to shun people, they are to accept people where they are and the capability they have to show up in love. When you truly love yourself and realize someone else's pain is causing them to try to hurt you, you then get to choose whether to have compassion on them. You can know it has nothing to do with you. It is their own pain projected onto you. How much more do you want to show them love knowing that their pain is causing them such disharmony and fear?
G) Forgiveness. We came here to experience forgiveness. Another divine purpose for meeting those who cannot provide the love we desire. Anytime we have a problem in our lives, something or someone is calling, beckoning even, to be forgiven. Often that person is ourselves. The true key to letting go and loving with complete vulnerability even to those who are SUPPOSED to love us and are NOT, is forgiveness. It's releasing the NEED for someone to be a certain way or validate us and loving them for who and where they are in this moment.
In summary, I think vulnerability is knowing who you are and loving yourself fully and completely, embracing that God loves you fully and completely and being willing to love others fully and completely without condition. "Love thy neighbor AS thyself." Why? Because we are all one here. When I love me, I love you. When I lift you, I lift me. It's being unafraid of weakness, inadequacy, rejection. It's about trusting, believing and knowing that you will receive all the love you need (GOD IS ABOUNDING IN IT!!!) from whatever source will serve you best and that the pain you receive from others is here to teach you a lesson---HOW TO LOVE & FORGIVE MORE i.e. BE MORE LIKE CHRIST.
Vulnerability is empowering. Vulnerability is forgiving. Vulnerability is love.
I strive to be the kind of person who can hold all of that love in my heart and embrace the good and the bad in others knowing it is only a reflection of the good and the bad in me. I strive to love myself and love others without condition. I strive to have compassion on those who are not showing up in love, but instead in fear. I strive to be willing to be on the receiving end. I'm thankful for those who have showed up needing love and forgiveness. It has shown me where I have need of loving and forgiving myself.
I hope to love and create from this space. The possibilities seem endless. And joy and gratitude are the predominating states of being there. We need to remember we are already whole. We are here to be our highest expression of love. We do this by being vulnerable: "capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt" and walking away with MORE expansion for love, acceptance and forgiveness. So...there's yaknow...some of my thoughts... :)