Vulnerability – a weakness or a strength?

When I was deep into my addictions, I was very fearful and resistant to the idea of being vulnerable. I was all about keeping my secrets and building a wall of protection around me so no one could hurt me or know that I was insecure and flawed. I was all about being perfect in order to keep others happy. Yet I was miserable inside and filled with emotions that I didn’t understand. The thought of being vulnerable scared me to death.

Yet I longed to be understood. I longed for someone to know me deeply and accept me just as I was – flaws, secrets, and all. But what if I was judged and rejected as the real me. It seemed easier to keep the walls up and the secrets hidden. Yet I was exhausted with the energy required to be perfect and to please others. I thought I could control my secrets, but the reality was my secrets were controlling me. I had to cover up, stuff down and numb out all the anger, hurt, fear and loneliness that was consuming me like a fire. My world was getting smaller, darker, and more fearful. Depression set in. Shame overwhelmed me. But I just had to try harder – to stop my addictions to masturbating, fantasizing and looking at porn. I was certain I could do it by myself. Yet, time and time again I failed. In fact, I just gave in to the cravings more frequently and for longer stretches of time.

So how do I stop this craziness? Well, one day I took a risk. The idea of being vulnerable, to me, meant being weak, exposed, embarrassed, ashamed and judged for being less than others. But the pain and despair screamed for relief. Dare I expose my secrets? Dare I tell someone that I am not a “good Christian woman” as I led everyone around me to believe? Dare I ask for help, having to admit that I can’t fix me? Oh the turmoil and wrestling within my head and heart. A war was raging for my soul and my well being (sanity). I knew I needed to risk doing something different.

When the porn, fantasies and masturbating was no longer giving any relief or satisfaction to my pain, shame and despair, I actually pondered at length stepping out of the safety and “control” of my secret places behind closed doors and pursue more risk by going “out there” to encounter the real thing; meaning experiencing my fantasies for real, in person, which went against my values related to not being sexual before marriage. I just wanted to know what it felt like to have someone touch me in a sexual way, to kiss me passionately, to hold me tightly and make me feel special for even a short while. Yet I knew I was delusional in thinking I would experience that pleasure in the places I considered going to find it.

So I had to take a different kind of risk. I knew I had to tell someone my secrets and to ask for help. It meant I needed to be willing to be vulnerable and feel exposed and weak. So I told a very safe person who I trusted, knowing she would keep my secrets and point me in the right direction. Boy was it ever hard to do. Vulnerability is actually about being brave and filled with courage. And being vulnerable required me to trust someone with the removal of my perfect mask I wore for so many years and say, “This is who I really am!” It required me to risk being rejected and judged in order to find out that instead I just might be accepted and loved. And the person I chose to tell, indeed, loved me, accepted me and encouraged me to get help by going to a counselor.

It took me 3-4 more months and a few assertive pushes from my safe person to finally make that phone call and set up my first appointment. And as I went to that appointment, my fear was soon replaced with relief as I was able to disclose my secrets and be accepted for who I was. Taking the walls down and the mask off allowed me to begin to experience healing for the past wounds of rejection, abandonment, and shame. God was then able to show me how much he loved me through those who were helping me.

By being vulnerable, I was able to connect with others and experience the intimacy that I had been truly craving. I was able to be set free from the isolation and bondage of keeping secrets and lying about who I really was. I was able to relax and stop spending energy on putting up walls and wearing the perfect mask. I was able to talk about my shame and learn how to become shame resilient. I was able to experience the freedom that Jesus Christ promises to give when He becomes the director and master of my life. All because I was willing to be vulnerable.

I soon learned that a posture of humility was a better place to be than thinking my pride was all that mattered.

“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:5-7‬ ‭NIV

As I humbled myself, confessed my sins and secrets to myself, to God, and to a safe person, I began to experience healing and my needs began to be met.

So if you are struggling with the idea that being vulnerable is a weakness, please consider finding a safe person to tell your secrets to. The risk of being vulnerable will prove to be a courageous strength if you will only humble yourself and speak up. I will never regret doing so. God has grown me up and continues to move me towards maturity all because I risked being vulnerable. You can do it too!

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