I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Corinthians 12:10 (The Bible)
The prevailing view of strength is one that opposes it to weakness and vulnerability. I think that balanced vulnerability is crucial to staying strong. I say “balanced” because not every moment is the right one to be vulnerable, just as there are times when applying force to something won’t do. But I believe modern culture is way out of balance with regard to the role of vulnerability in our lives – mostly because there is too little of it, not too much.
Very often, “vulnerable” is considered to be a negative word in the English language. It is thought to mean “powerless.” Exposed. Prone to being violated, to being walked on. Unable to fight back when wronged. Even pathetic.
However, in a positive context, vulnerability is not a permanent state of wretchedness. It coexists with strength and reinforces it, in fact. Think of it in terms of “strong enough to be weak.” When somebody is strong enough to bare themselves, to let themselves be undefended. We know about this kind of strength, and yet so often we are unaware of just how necessary it is – and so often, how much stronger its effect actually is than the effect of somebody using a more conventional, hard, direct approach.
In other places on this blog, I have written about things one can do to show strength in vulnerability:
- A song demonstrating strength in loving enough to let somebody go
- The importance of saying you’re sorry without justifying it
- The art of disarming when there is conflict
Now I would like to show you a video from the TED series of a woman who wanted to figure out what makes certain people able to just stay happy, no matter what. She thought, originally, that it was because they had something that made them less vulnerable, and set out to “beat back vulnerability with her measuring stick” given that “excruciating vulnerability” led to a deep sense of shame, according to her research. But then, she discovered something… (21 minutes)
Note: If you wonder about where the line is drawn between “healthy vulnerability” and “excruciating vulnerability,” you may want to read my article on the yin-yang perspective.