“The most powerful thing you can do to change the world is to change your own beliefs about the nature of life people and reality, to something more positive and begin to act accordingly.” ~Shakti Gawai As a child, I was naturally trusting of people around me, my family and those whom I called friends. I would’ve bought the moon if you tried to sell it to me. Even into my mid-teens I was an extremely unquestioning young man to the point that I could’ve gotten into legal trouble by “friends” taking advantage of my gullible nature. Dating as a young man was a disaster; I trusted that the girl I was madly in love with would follow through on all her promises to love me forever. When our relationship ended after three years of dating I was crushed.
Growing up my parents met only my basic needs and I did not receive the emotional support that I craved. My life turned into perpetually hunting for the love and affection that I did not receive at home. In adulthood, this search led to marriage and divorce, twice, with each marriage lasting three years or less. After some time being single, I was found by a wonderful woman with whom I fell in love with, only for her life to be ended thru a car accident after three years of bliss.
Being vulnerable with people is not one of my strong points because of the emotional pain I’ve endured. Some of the anguish I’ve brought onto myself. Other times, it’s been brought upon me. Learning to accept full responsibility for the emotional distress I brought onto myself has been instrumental in helping me mature and heal. Shutting down emotionally became my default action for many years when I felt I was being attacked by those in my life. My acquired learning of how to be egocentrically numb led to becoming harsh, abrasive, confrontational and rejecting of people which in turn led to automatic suspicion of everyone.
So how does one learn how to be trusting and unguarded after so much rejection, guilt, bitterness, and hardness of heart setting into someone’s life? I can only speak from my own experience on this. My journey began when an unexpected woman and her friends came into my life and offered me nothing but their friendship. Naturally, I was suspicious of their motives and kept them at arm's length for several months. When I figured out that they were giving me a genuine offer of friendship, I cautiously started to accept them into my life. Prior to meeting my friends, I had a jaded and distorted view of love, acceptance, friendship, and family.
As I learn to be vulnerable with others I’m reminded of Christ’s vulnerability with mankind. I think popular worship leader Misty Edwards says it best in her song Arms Wide Open.
And then I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at Me
I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me….
He had arms wide open, a heart exposed
Arms wide open; He was bleeding, bleeding
Love's definition, love's definition was looking at me...
This is how I know what love is, this is how I know
What love is
Genuine love and true friendship requires open arms which means you have to have an exposed heart. For someone who has been hurt, abused, taken advantage of, traumatized, and rejected this is not an easy task. Are there times that suspicion wants to raise its ugly head and I get the urge to cut and run? Absolutely! In those moments, I’m reminded by my friends, “How does Jesus feel about this”? Of course I never really want to hear those pearls of wisdom, but in the end I know they’re right. Arms Wide Open, a heart exposed.
It feels so good to be able to go and be able to talk freely with someone who “gets” you. Even with all your quirks and flaws, they’re able to let you be you without judgment and condemnation. Not only have my friends have done that for me, but through them I’ve come to realize that God truly wants me to be vulnerable with Him. His open arms and exposed heart have given me the ability to be start being vulnerable with others regardless of how many times they stab me, lash out at me, or reject me. Through their actions, they have modeled for me how Christ has opened Himself up to mankind's rejection, scorn, and abuse, yet His arms are always open to receive you in your mess. Vulnerability can be very messy and painful, if you go about it correctly, it can lead to very big returns in your life.
I have found that forgiveness is a key ingredient for becoming open with those who love you most. Knowing who you are is another additive to achieving freedom from the cage of emotional seclusion
and feeling unworthy of love and acceptance. These are just a small amount of the actions that must be done to attain vulnerability. Healing, freedom, connection, and acceptance are all fruits that grow in your life when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Take it from someone who once considered vulnerability to be a weakness and who is learning that being exposed emotionally leads to a plethora of freedom in life.