Every now and then I have this dream. The setting changes, but the plot is always the same. I’m going about my normal routine — usually school or grocery shopping or work. Everything seems mundane until suddenly I realize that — gasp — I’m not wearing pants.
I’m unsure how I could have gotten so far into my day before catching on to this unfortunate reality. I mean, where exactly had I been keeping my keys and wallet up to this point? Nevertheless, I am then forced to run, dive and seek emergency shelter to hide my pasty white shame from the unsuspecting public.
It’s at this point I usually wake with a jolt and slowly recognize that I am thankfully not that large of an idiot.
I bet you’ve had a similar nightmare. Being naked in a crowd is one of the most common recurring dreams. Apparently this dream occurs at times when we feel insecure or emotionally exposed.
When we feel vulnerable.
It’s interesting that the first time mistakes or disappointment enters into the story of scripture, the people involved realize that they’re physically naked. There’s a reason we wears clothes around every day and it’s not simply to protect us from the elements.
No one likes to feel exposed. We go to great lengths to craft the story of ourselves. We want others to see our social self, the best versions of ourselves that we can be. So we create a narrative in all sorts of ways about who we are — with our hairstyle and clothes, through our words and actions, by our careers and titles, through our carefully chosen images and words on social media.
So when someone sees the unfiltered us, moments of true honesty and genuineness, it can be unnerving.
Vulnerability feels like weakness.
In chapter 2 of Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown talks about how we associate vulnerability with fear and shame, sadness and disappointment. Vulnerability gets related to these negative experiences, when in fact vulnerability is simply the uncertainty or risk that comes from being human.
“Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.” (p.32)
Any time we put ourselves out there in the world — through our writing or photography, by sharing our ideas or our art, when we dare to love someone else — we open ourselves to the risk of being seen. We expose ourselves to the possibility of rejection and pain. Someone might not like our ideas. People may disagree. They may not think that our talent is worthy.
It’s scary to put ourselves out there like that. It makes us feel weak. But vulnerability is the exact opposite of weakness.
Letting ourselves be truly seen is a courageous act.
And nothing really good in the world every comes about without the courage of vulnerability. Love, joy, empathy, creativity all come about when someone dares to put themselves out there, when someone endures the risk of exposure.
Part of the reason that the cross is so powerful is because it is the ultimate example of vulnerability. An almighty creator becoming human, showing himself and his heart to the world in such an authentic way. And God suffered for it.
But love so openly displayed changes the world.
So we can choose to hide. We can choose to craft a false self for the world and hide behind our shields. Or we can choose to courageously love the world. We can choose to be seen — our hearts, our talents, our weaknesses, our doubts.
We may be exposed, but I promise it’s worth it. All good things come from this place. We open ourselves to failure, pain and rejection, but we also open ourselves to everything that is good, noble and right in the world.
That’s not weakness, it’s strength.
May we all have the audacity to be vulnerable today.
May we have the courage to be seen.