Vulnerability is yet another one of those words of our culture. I hear the topic vulnerability come up in a variety of settings: Christian university, growing your blog / online business, writing, marriage, and many other contexts.
When the vulnerability rage began to become apparent around me, I was immediately frustrated with it. I am not a vulnerable person. I hated (and still sometimes do) vulnerability. I felt like every time I attended assemblies or chapel at university it was always at least mentioned in passing. Not only that, it filled social media. To top it all off, even when I went to websites to read about blogging, I was still being pressured about vulnerability.
I hated vulnerability because I had no use for it. Why would I want to display my weaknesses? Why do I want people to know my secrets? They are called secrets for a reason. I’d leave situations where the topic of vulnerability had come up annoyed and agitated. I refused to be vulnerable. Before I was a Christian, I nearly always chose lying over talking about my life.
Since then, I have grown to have a more understanding relationship with vulnerability, however I am still not okay with how much it is emphasized in our culture. In Christian circles, we either have a poor understanding of vulnerability (like me), or we are using it wrongly.
Why Vulnerability is Important
Despite my dislike for vulnerability, I know it has value and purpose, especially within the church. In the family of God, we are called to encourage one another to do good deeds (Hebrews 10:24) and restore those who have fallen into sin (Galatians 6:1). Doing these things will be much more difficult without honest relationships. How can you keep one another accountable if you don’t know what they are struggling with? How can you encourage someone to do good works if you don’t know how they are gifted? How can you support and uplift someone in a time of difficulty if you don’t know what they are going through?
During my time of hatred of vulnerability, I didn’t believe I needed anyone. I could handle my sin on my own, I could handle my struggles on my own, I could handle my trials on my own. I didn’t see the use of vulnerability in those dark times because I believed (despite how much I was drowning) I could do it without the help or support of anyone. They didn’t need to know what I was going through.
Of course, I was completely wrong. God created the church to love and support each other. All you need to do is look up all of the “one another” passages in the New Testament to see that.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” Romans 12:10-16 ESV
When you are vulnerable with your fellow believers, they can lift you up and encourage you, whether its guiding you out of sin, supporting you in suffering, or encouraging you to pursue the ways you are gifted. Vulnerability is not a bad thing when it is done right.
Where Vulnerability Goes Wrong
Sadly, however, vulnerability is not always done right. There are three ways vulnerability usually goes wrong:
Sin is Glorified
We all have heard that testimony in church, youth group, or Christian summer camp where the person stands up, spends 10-30 minutes listing off all the sinful activities they did before they were a Christian, and then quickly adds on at the end, “But then I got saved and everything changed.” To be blunt, this is not God-glorifying testimony. Instead, it is a sin-glorifying testimony. Sometimes our vulnerability (whether its online, in a group setting, or one-on-one) is more focused on our sin.
I understand the reasoning behind exposing our sins; it shows people that we aren’t perfect and that we fail at times like they do. However, there’s definitely a point in which it is done in excess and sin is glorified rather than God. If you only talk about all your sins and failures and never point people back to our Perfect God who atoned for our sins, then you are only glorifying your sin rather than God.
Self is Glorified
Similar the previous issue, our vulnerability can at times be solely to glorify ourselves. If you are only ever writing about yourself, the amazing or not-so-amazing amazing things you have done, the great accomplishments you have made, and the like, then you may want to check your motives to see what your true purpose in being vulnerable is. If you are trying to encourage someone else, great! But if you are secretly trying to either pull pity or awe from others onto yourself, then your vulnerability is glorifying you.
Here’s the problem with both sin- and self-glorified vulnerability: You should only be glorifying God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This is the same for your vulnerability. Are you seeking to bring glory to God by showing how He proved faithful in your weakness, or are you seeking pity from others concerning your difficulties? Are you trying to glorify God by encouraging another believer that they can difficult things through Christ’s strength, or are you trying to receive praise from them for the “great” thing you did?
Sin is sneaky, and we must always be checking our hearts to make sure that our words and deeds are not self-centred but Christ-centred.
Being Vulnerable to the Wrong People
One of the biggest reasons why I hated being vulnerable was fear of saying too much to the wrong kind of person. Who is the wrong type of person to be vulnerable to? Someone who will use it against you. I know it is impossible to know for certain that someone will not use your vulnerability against you, but I think we can be wise and discerning about who we are vulnerable with when talking about our sins or struggles or trials.
An easy rule-of-thumb I use is this: If they will do it for me, they will do it to me. If someone will gossip to you, speak poorly of other people’s character to you, make fun of others to you, or tell secrets to you about other people, then that is a clear sign that they cannot be trusted. They have not proven themselves to be a trusted person.
The motive behind this is not fear of man (that people will have a poor view of me) but once again glorifying God. Of course, if something does happen and a horrible rumour begins circulating about you, there’s not much you can do and God is sovereign and can still use that to glorify Himself in some fashion. However, we can try to prevent those things from happening and ruining our reputation before others by simply watching what we say around certain people.
Genuine, Godly Vulnerability
Godly vulnerability is focused on bringing glory to God and loving others, like the rest of our Christian walk is supposed to. Though we don’t always do this perfectly, it is always our desire.
Here are a few examples of ways vulnerability can be used for good:
Glorifying God by showing how His strength showed through in your weakness. Whether it was sin, a trial, or a limitation of yours, you can point people back to God by sharing those times. The key is pointing back to God at all times, not yourself.
Encouraging others. If someone is dealing with an issue that you also struggled with, you can share how God used that in your life and how He brought you through it.
Seeking help in your trial or fight against sin. If you are either drowning in a difficult season or you feel helpless in conquering a sin, don’t be afraid to open up to trusted, mature Christian people and ask them for help. Be sure to check your motives, that you aren’t simply seeking attention, but that you want godly help.
I hope this article has helped you develop a biblical view of vulnerability and how to use to honour God in your life.