How do you view vulnerability? Depending on your cultural perspective, vulnerability may be viewed in a positive light or in a negative fashion.
I’m promoting the idea that an appropriate level of vulnerability exists in healthy relationships, generally speaking. Specifically, missionaries benefit from being appropriately vulnerable in key relationships within their uniquely missionary context.
- Vulnerability establishes honesty, rather than being dishonest. Wouldn’t you rather be honest in your relationships than to cheat, lie or hide crucial truth?
- Vulnerability enhances trust, rather than being full of distrust. Wouldn’t you rather be trusting in your relationships than to not trust others or not be considered trustworthy?
- Vulnerability creates a sense of honor, rather than shame. Wouldn’t you rather be one who brings honor to yourself and others, than to be shame inducing?
- Vulnerability produces authenticity, rather than fakery or shallowness. Wouldn’t you rather be authentic than fake?
- Vulnerability promotes risk tasking for self and others, rather than being unadventurous. Wouldn’t you rather take appropriate risks than to play it safe?
- Vulnerability enables healing from past trauma, rather than stuffing down emotions. Wouldn’t you rather feel relief than bondage?
- Vulnerability prevents hurts from piling up, rather than stockpiling disappointments. Wouldn’t you rather deal with life as it comes than to hold onto the pain?
- Vulnerability helps needs to be met, rather than seeking attention in unusual ways. Wouldn’t you rather be filled up and able to pour out to others than to always be looking to get?
- Vulnerability encourages responsibility for self, family and others, rather than being irresponsible. Wouldn’t you rather take care of the people and things around you than to be out of control or negligent?
Imagine Yourself Standing In Front of A Police Officer
Last week I was driving on I-494 in Minneapolis when I was pulled over by a policeman for a traffic violation. The officer let me go because he knew I was from out of town, in a rental car and ignorant of the law that I broke. My exchange with the officer was an excellent picture of vulnerability.
Image by David R. Tribble , used by permission.
When speaking with the officer I was honest and willing to answer any question. I wanted to help him do his job and I had no desire to hide anything from him. I knew that his place in the community was to protect himself, his fellow officers and the public (my offense was failing to move to the center lane when passing a parked vehicle on the shoulder). The officer had my best interests in mind as well.
Missionaries can be appropriately vulnerable with field leaders, mission agency personnel, missions pastors and committee members, friends and counselors. Vulnerability may look differently with each person but each of these key persons can be a tremendous help if the missionary allows.
A Friend Named Joy Who Is Experiencing Joy
Missionaries need not be vulnerable all the time with every person. That would be unhealthy. Being vulnerable in the right way with the right people will bring the benefits listed previously.
Recently Joy, a friend of mine, was appropriately vulnerable by sharing her story of the anniversary of her deceased husband. Joy articulated the fear she had as her anniversary approached with her second husband, a fear born out of her previous experience. You can read Joy’s story here.
What encourages me about Joy’s story is that it demonstrates a healthy process of grief and desire to live a life that is growing and joyful. Exploring the right time to be vulnerable by sharing her story with others shows her desire to live an authentic life.
Be Vulnerable or Isolate Yourself
Missionaries will benefit from being vulnerable with the right people at the right time. Choosing to isolate oneself apart from the missionary community, local friends and appropriate leaders and senders may seem to be the right decision but in most cases it is a form of self-protection that will lead to more pain, less healing and an inauthentic existence.