It’s easy to say that a season that births something is the season in which it was planted; I could very much claim that the time of Coronavirus quarantine birthed the concept of Fearless Vulnerability in me. But this idea actually began sometime in late 2017/early 2018, when I first began to share my struggles with anxiety on social media.
The Story Behind “Fearless Vulnerability”
For a good portion of my life, fear has been an enemy I’ve struggled with both corporately and privately. From my later teens into my early twenties, it was something I felt like I had to hide and apologize for simply because my reactions to it were quite visceral and, I’m sure, very jarring. It wasn’t until I gained some distance from those I interacted with regularly – an internet’s distance, to be exact—that I began to feel my way around how to express anxiety’s effects without apologizing for how it manifested in me.
Slowly but surely, on my small business platform, I began to share tidbits about how I was feeling; a throwaway comment here or there, usually wrapped in humor; an apology for a prolonged absence when days or weeks of anxiety took me out of my marketing game. But then a time came when I couldn’t laugh it off anymore. I needed to be honest about how much I was struggling.
I wish I could remember exactly who or when someone first said it; all I know was the notion changed my life.
“Thank you for being vulnerable about your anxiety,” someone wrote on an Instagram post where I risked being a bit more honest about my struggles. “It helps me feel like I’m not alone.”
It was one of those moments where I felt like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention.” My honesty about something so scary and debilitating was actually helpful to someone? I didn’t even do anything—I was just vulnerable.
That was really when the seed of fearless vulnerability began to form.
Bit by bit, God worked a change in my heart over the ensuing years. I was no longer hiding my anxiety from my friends and connections on social media; I also wasn’t throwing it out there for sympathy points or excuses. Time after time, I’ve felt God’s nudge on my heart – “Talk about this. Be honest. Don’t worry about how they see you—I see you. Just tell your story. Keep telling it. Keep telling it.”
Every time I do, I find more and more people like me who struggled for a long time in the shadows – with anxiety, with depression, with loss, grief, anger, regret, and other emotions they’ve stifled for years. They want to be honest; they want someone to listen. But many of us are waiting for someone else to take that first step, to show it’s okay to be out on the waves, to be honest about the sins we struggle with. The trauma we’ve suffered. The disorders that afflict us. The fear that plagues us. Being vulnerable in the right way, at the right time, can quite literally be a matter of life or death for some, the difference between getting the help they need or not, having their reputation ruined or not, seeing their life saved or lost.
In a society that pushes the value of personal success and independence, and even a Christian culture that promotes perfect living, it is a painful, powerful, and necessary thing that we learn how to operate in fearless vulnerability—with our God and with each other.
What is Fearless Vulnerability?
Fearless vulnerability is the state from which we approach and connect with others to help them face their struggles, heal from their trauma, and come into a closer relationship with God, while also being in relationship with each other AND with our Heavenly Father. It’s a reach-out to the wounded hearts around us from a grounding of love, an honesty about our own shortcomings and pain, and a willingness to be broken and to heal together.
There is a reason I call it fearless vulnerability; because there is a way to be vulnerable but afraid, and there is a way to be fearless but never vulnerable. And there are consequences to each.
- If we are vulnerable from a place of fear, we often overshare to get people to like us, understand us, or let us off the hook. By doing this, we risk exposing more of ourselves to an individual or situation than is called for at that time, which serves neither us nor them
- If we are fearless but unwilling to share from the heart, either because we have not come face-to-face with how we fall short or because we are so aware of it that we don’t want anyone else to know, we often come off as conceited, self-righteous, or holier-than-thou.
Ultimately, these two approaches do not serve God’s purposes and they don’t entreat others toward healing. Frightened vulnerability and fearless impregnability are both more about our image than about helping the other person. However, when we are fearlessly vulnerable and vulnerably fearless, we are in a unique position to lead others into laying their burdens down at the feet of Jesus.
Fearless vulnerability is not just gushing your life story to anyone, anytime, any place; it’s also not holding back and just telling people “God can fix you. Go figure that out, have a nice day!” It’s a blended balance of full-sharing for the right reasons, at the right times, with the right people.
It is something we need Jesus to guide us into doing properly. And I fully believe it is a way to be more like him.
What Is the Point of Fearless Vulnerability?
Walking out life from a state of fearless vulnerability allows us to connect with people on a real, deep level—and for the right reasons. Fearless vulnerability is willing to share the darkness of one’s past, the struggles in one’s life, the shortcomings and sin nature we war against; not for the sake of being noticed or pitied, not to garner sympathy for one’s self or excuse one’s behavior, but to say, “I see you. You are not alone. God has and is helping me from my valley of shadow; He is ready, willing, and able to help you, too!”
Fearless vulnerability also allows us to set aside the concerns about whether people will like us more or less based on our testimony, whether we’re ruining our image if we admit to struggling with addiction, mental health problems, or past mistakes, whether we’ll be accepted for who we are. Fearless vulnerability tells its story for the right reasons: to help others see that in the household of God, there are no perfect people. There is only a Perfect Father, a Perfect Healer, and while none of us has reached a place of complete wholeness, God is continually making beauty from our ashes.
In subsequent articles, I want to look at fearless vulnerability in three areas of life:
- Fearless Vulnerability in Relationship
- Fearless Vulnerability in Worship
- Fearless Vulnerability in Ministry
While there are elements of these interwoven, each one deserves its own deep-dive. I hope you’ll stick with me in exploring what being fearlessly vulnerable in these different areas of life can look like; and I truly hope you glean some insight that will help you, as a follower of Jesus, become more fearless in the way you express your vulnerability—and more vulnerable in the way you express how Christ has set you free from fear.