Tuesday 22 June 2010

The Strength in Vulnerability

One of the most profound Lessons in Life that I have ever learnt has been this: Our vulnerability is powerful.

I don't even remember how Peter taught me this, but I do know that it has stayed with me ever since.  Having seen it's power in action, I remain committed to this principle.

We are programmed by western society to look strong, to know the answers, or to pretend we know the answers, to blame others, to bluff if we have to, to lie if we need to...  We are almost obliged to save face, to show no weakness, to make no mistakes...

In fact, that need is so strong - especially within the business world, though it spills over to every other aspect of life - that it grips us fiercely, almost like a collective, unconscious terror.

It is for this very reason that honesty takes us so completely by surprise.  When someone has the courage to say, "I made a mistake," or "I don't know how to do this", or "Help me, I don't know how to fix this", we are almost blown away.

This is partly because we've become so used to the lies people hide behind on a daily basis and partly because it takes enormous courage to go beyond telling lies: to expose ourselves.  And not just expose the parts that are easily admirable, but to expose a weakness, to expose the soft underbelly of our vulnerability.

Whenever I have experienced this level of honesty, it has almost invariably been meet by a collective sigh of relief.  I suspect this is because that person has just expressed the unmentionable fears and weaknesses of many others in the room.

By speaking from their Truth, rather than from behind a mask, these Truth-speakers implicitly allow the rest of us to take ownership of the aspects of ourselves that scare us: simply because someone else had the courage to own their weakness and vulnerability. 

The irony is that the person who spoke out is often the stronger, more powerful person.  They didn't hide.  They didn't pretend.  They were who they were.  It is the fearful who hide behind lies.

How often do we courageously stand in who are?  We can hide behind anger, sarcasm and even humour, but how often do we speak with honesty about our limits or our fears?  How often do we share our vulnerability?

NOTE: In writing this, I'm not suggesting sharing those intimate parts of ourselves recklessly or stupidly.  What I am saying is that this level of honesty - with those we love and care for - can increase the levels of intimacy and trust in our closest, deepest relationships.  Being honesty can free us and those around us from the impossible, unachievable burden of being perfect.

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