Many years ago I volunteered for a position I wished I hadn’t. I offered to chair a church committee I’d never served on before!
For some reason the job looked appealing—at first. This would be a new and fun adventure. I would learn more about the committee’s work. I would help envision new opportunities for the congregation. And I appreciated the confidence the other committee members, many of whom had been on this committee for years—entrusted to me.
Besides, no one else wanted the job, so I enlisted.
But at the first meeting everything changed. Sitting at the table, surrounded by other committee members, I wondered how I could possibly do this job. The voice in my head persisted, “What do you know about this work? How can you capably chair a committee you’ve never even served on?” This responsibility threatened my need to be competent. It wasn’t fun and exciting anymore. I wanted to escape, go home and turn on the television.
In short, I felt vulnerable.
Feeling vulnerable happens when we’ve stepped out of our comfort zone, feel seen by others, or fear being hurt. We’d do anything to get past our stressful, shaky, uncertain feelings. But author and speaker Brené Brown, who has studied this tender topic for years, tells us not to flee from these feelings but to remain with them. Vulnerability, she says, “is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences.”
In other words, vulnerability is a gift. Others relate to us better when we’re ‘just one of the folks,’ and we get what we’re hard-wired for— relationship. Our connection to one another deepens when we dare to be human, imperfections and all. For many of us, this requires courage, a word meaning “heart.” Dr. Brown says that courage originally meant “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
Perhaps on the evening of that long-ago committee meeting, I could have begun courageously by admitting my vulnerability. I might have said, “I’ve never been on this committee before and I’m not sure I can chair it. I hope you’ll help me as I try to do this job.”
They would have been kind. They would have been helpful. They were nice people, after all.
The quality of my relationships with them would have deepened, and paradoxically, resulted in feeling less vulnerable!