“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they remind us that we’re all in this together.” — Dr Brené Brown
I think we all know someone who works hard to be invulnerable. They can come across as the Know It All, but often they can also be the most well-meaning, loving individual. The Nurturer. The Mum Friend. (Even if you’re a parent yourself, he or she will mother you.) Often, they have the best advice that you’d gladly follow. And even if they admit to having struggled, they’ll tell you about it after the fact so you can learn from their mistakes.
I’ve certainly been that way to others, and I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of it myself. And through recent reflection, it strikes me that part of the reason is our need to look like we’re holding it together. Vulnerability, by its very definition, allows us to be attacked — and that’s never fun. Conversely, if we put ourselves in a position of strength, we feel stronger. More in control. If we are always the helper and never the one in need of help, we even have power.
And of course, most of us give without any evil intentions. We don’t see our helping as a deliberate play or a power struggle. But being vulnerable with one another involves letting others see who we completely are, broken petals included. And if we allow help to come our way in turn, growth comes.
(But “being seen” can also be a terrifying prospect, we also mumble. Humiliation. Who enjoys that?)
I read about a Franciscan teacher who looks out for his “one good humiliation a day” to challenge his ego. The challenge might come in the form of someone disagreeing with his views, or him not getting his way. And then he carefully observes his own reaction, particularly how quickly his self-defence mechanism kicks in. But he also reasons that even our critics can speak some truth that we can learn from. And in resisting the impetus to close ourselves off to others, we come closer to recognising who we really are ourselves.
As poet David Whyte reflects,
“… the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others.”
We’re in this together.