I have always loved jumping off rocks into the water. I have so many memories of me standing on the edge of a cliff gathering the courage to try a new flip or jump higher than I had before. One thing I consistently noticed was the longer I waited to jump, the harder it became. Especially if I didn’t commit after the first 3…2…1 JUMP. I have since learned something exciting happens in our bodies when we hesitate. We have about a 5-second window of time to face a challenge head-on- if we stop and hesitate our nervous system registers it as a threat which causes our bodies to react accordingly and it becomes…“scary”. The more we hesitate the bigger a threat our nervous system thinks it is and the scarier it becomes. I have seen this play out in every area of my life where I have hesitated, whether I’m on the edge of a cliff contemplating for over an hour if I should jump, or avoiding that hard conversation I know I need to have that I’ve been putting off for months. The longer I wait the harder it becomes.
Of course, this protective response is built into us to help us survive, but it can also keep us from thriving if we are not careful. I’ve experienced this big time with vulnerability. I spent the majority of my life cultivating a close relationship with God but despite all the years of prayer, reading the bible, and worship, there was still a tiny part of me that felt unlovable. I got really good at ignoring this part, dismissing it, outperforming it, but rarely sharing it. Perfectionism started to seep into my life because I was afraid of being rejected and I started to settle for affirmation when what I really wanted was acceptance. Even though I had an amazing community around me I had developed the belief at an early age that I was loved for my strengths and that if I shared my weaknesses I wouldn’t be loved.
I’ve done a lot of scary things in my life, but nothing has been more terrifying or more rewarding than cultivating a life of honesty, even in my weaknesses. While I have been on this journey for some time it wasn’t until 2014 when I had watched Brené Brown’s ted talk on vulnerability that I realized just how key it was to living a full life. I was wrecked. I realized I had been doing a lot of life backward. The things I was hiding in order to get approval (like my insecurities) were the very things I needed to reveal to experience true love and connection. I wanted to make this a new way of living, so I had a group of close friends I met with weekly to practice this. The goal: Be as honest as possible…about everything. The more honest I was with myself and the people around me the closer I felt. It was like a layer of saran wrap had been lifted off me and I was experiencing life without it for the first time.
Jesus prayed to the Father before he went to the cross in John 17:1 “May they be one just as you and I are one”. We are wired for close connections and community but in my experience, we can only be as close as we are honest, with ourselves and others. I think that’s why they call intimacy: “INTO ME YOU SEE”.
For me, vulnerability has felt like standing at the edge of that cliff staring down at the water, I know I want to jump but man, it’s scary. After the first jump though most of that fear goes away and I can’t wait to climb back up and do it again. In psychology this is called a “disconfirming experience” and it happens simply by doing the thing we are afraid of and then our nervous system realizes, “oh, that wasn’t so bad…we’re safe”- and then we’re not afraid anymore. The depth of relationship I’ve experienced on the other side of this journey has been worth a thousand jumps off those cliffs.
If it resonates with you at all I want to encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit: “Is there something I’m withholding in my close relationships that I could share that would actually bring me closer?”
And “Who is a safe person in my life to share this with?”
I encourage you this week- to go one step further into radical vulnerability, take action and share whatever the Holy Spirit shows you with someone else. I promise you, it’s worth it.
Also, If you’re a guy and want to set aside some time to practice this we’ve got our next Men’s Head to Heart group coming up. Here’s a link to a video with all the deets: https://lwrv.org/events/mens-head-to-heart-challenge