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What about being vulnerable?

2013-12-19 16.35.14By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at

She said, “Are you really being vulnerable?”

Have you ever had one of those moments in a conversation, an argument, or while reading a book when you have the wind knocked out of you? That’s how that question hit me. It struck me to the marrow and vibrated my being in that moment and sat on my heart for weeks.

We’ve talked before in an earlier blog about the word “Surrender.” People often have a strong reaction to the word and the concept. Somehow this question about whether or not I was truly being vulnerable hit me even deeper. I could see how it related to a whole domino line of behaviors in my life.  Those structures I had erected suddenly didn’t have such a strong foundation.

Vulnerability, like surrender, requires a great level of trust. Am I willing to risk it all?

Vulnerability can be scary in our dealings with other humans, but we can often feel tentative about it even in our spiritual lives. I thought I was being really open, that I was comfortable with surrender, but being vulnerable was different. It felt more proactive, like I was choosing to put my naked self way out there. Even being vulnerable in my relationship with the Holy felt a little scary.

But then came the freedom. When I didn’t have to stay tucked in and protective, I could be free. I didn’t have to hold it all together, thinking I was in control.

Perhaps, if I can be more vulnerable in my spiritual life, I can be more vulnerable in my other close relationships. This growth is hard, but at least I’m not alone.

What is your experience?

10 responses to “What about being vulnerable?”

  1. Robert Close says:

    I found these words on a wall at the Shalom Mountain Retreat and Study Center


    That quality in people that enables them to be:

    defenseless, unfettered by ties of fear,
    unchained by ideologies,
    unchartered by predetermined goals;

    powerless, lacking the will to impose or manipulate

    open, capable of being-affected and shaped,
    reachable, gate-less, wall-less;

    receptive, able to be reached or penetrated,
    unlocked, unblocked, open-armed;

    growing, undefined in any final way,
    in constant process of definition

    wanton, foolishly exposed to life and its
    crashing impact, FREE

    Freedom and Love,


  2. Micky Wolf says:

    Most insightful post, Stephanie–and probably because I have been journeying through a deeper understanding of what it means to be vulnerable in recent weeks. Amen and yes to “this growth is hard, but at least I’m not alone.” At the same time, I do believe there are occasions some of us are called to ‘go first’, that others might be encouraged. The freedom we experience in the process is incredible! Thank you for sharing!

  3. As I let my life get more and more complicated, I seal myself off in this false cocoon of control, where surrender and vulnerability are closed out. I am trying to moment to moment ask God to release the bonds in which I surround myself. Please God let the light in, the curiousity, the creativity… these bonds are all about tightness and lack of light. Vulnerability and surrender…. the path out of these bonds. Thanks for your blog!

  4. Facinating. After I made my comment, I saw an email that had a link to this TED Talk, about vulnerability.

    It is worth listening

    • Liz,
      What a lovely prayer, and you are so right about the “tightness and lack of light” you mention! Thank you for passing on the TED Talk video. I had seen it a while ago and for me, it was worth re-listening.

  5. rafael says:

    Its about becoming undefended.

  6. Jean Wise says:

    I see you and others mentioned Brene Brown’s work with vulnerability. I really learned much from her writings re this and a deeper understanding about it. I think I used to believe being vulnerable was wrong and not a good place to be. Now I see it as it is, it just describes how I am feeling. Knowing that gives me courage to move one. Like you said taking the risk. and that has made the difference. Good post@

  7. I feel this as a constant in my life…….I understand my life is a journey, a great quest of unspeakable love and peace. Unspeakable for me because there are no words in over 7000 languages that could do this soul journey justice. In my life I see my walls of vulnerability in stages. My soul takes in these truths more readily in pictures and touch. Four years ago I first saw my guarded soul as a huge 1000 foot wall made of granite, steel I beams, broken glass and things I could feel but didn’t know what they where yet. I saw the wall around my heart for the first time and then I touched the wall of vulnerability and this made it real for me. On this journey to destroying these walls I quickly discovered there was no destroying them. No amount of brute force was going to scratch these walls, only letting go of forcing and then listening to the voices in my soul. It took a while but as I slowed down in all areas of my life (even when I was physically going as fast as can, working, running etc,) I would have challenges that would bring me face to face with my huge granite broken glass wall of pain and right in that moment, in the pain I could chose to not chose and instead listen to my true self and each time I have and the wall comes down some. There are times when I thought my walls where gone, only to find out they are still there but not as hard, high, and painful… I know that I don’t know when my vulnerability is going to present itself. There is no set place for my vulnerability and I am good with that, but if I am the ocean I will never become sea sick (Mark Nepo) but this is how I see this. I still get sea sick at times but I know why now. My journey into the universe of my soul continues………Thanks for your sharing of your soul, Stephanie.

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