In my experience, if we're not willing to get vulnerable with people that we're in a relationship with, then we're probably not seriously willing to be in that relationship. The unwillingness to open up and share our fears, concerns, raw and genuine personhood means that we're stuck on the surface with the superficial. Authentic, meaningful relationships invite and encourage vulnerability, compassion, and a transformational rather than transactional type of intimacy. As my sponsor once shared with me... "Into each other, we get to see."
What does it mean to be vulnerable? In my experience its meant being open to honestly share our personhood, experiences, and feelings, without having to edit, revise and polish ourselves up to win the other person over, even if we're unsure of the reaction we'll get. It means having the ability to admit when we're a passenger on the "Struggle bus," or when we've made a mistake or had a mis-take. It means letting our guard down and allowing others to see the real us - flaws and all. We're natural instead of being an unnatural representative self. As a friend recently put it "We're cultivating and deepening relationship, instead of trying to manufacture artificial chemistry." Only maturity is maturity.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of intimacy. Intimacy, in its deepest sense, is not just about physical closeness or shared laughter; it is about wise communication... shared trials, common struggles, mutual respect and understanding. It is about being seen for who we are and accepted for the same. When we're our genuine selves, we build trust and deepen connections. We learn that we don't have to act a part to be accepted and loved, which brings us freedom - the freedom to be authentic, whether people accept us as we are or not.
The journey into vulnerability and intimacy requires courage. It means braving... perhaps weathering... potential judgment, criticism, or rejection. And life, as we all know, isn't a fairytale. I can recall a time when I was eight years clean, a girlfriend gave me an ultimatum, "It's either NA or me." I chose to be honest, telling her, "If I have to cut that aspect of myself off for you to 'Love' me, that isn't love." The act of exposing our truth can stir discomfort and uncertainty, but it also paves the way toward a more authentic way of being. When it's absent, it's a kind of suffering on a spectrum that depends on the relationship with ourselves that we are or aren't willing to tolerate. For most of us, that's a process and not an event. In that particular case, instead of trying to be perfect, I focused on intentionally not pretending to be who I'm not.
That kind of honesty and vulnerability can also mean accepting the uncertainty of what people expect from us. In my experience, this can be difficult and even terrifying. But on the other side of vulnerability is freedom - the freedom to drop our walls and just be ourselves, whether people are willing to journey with us or not. It's the gift of not having to live as what's not real or honest.
If we want healthy, mature relationships, we could choose to embrace vulnerability. As Krishna Das once said, "Instead of changing relationships like we change channels on the tv... it we want a true friend... a true relationship... we have to be prepared to go through the shit..." and the "Shit" he was referring to is the willingness to be vulnerable.
In this way, we could have a little courage... share our struggles... be transparent in our weaknesses and strengths... ask for support when we need it. We could drop the need to be and look perfect, trying to force things to be exciting like every day's going be an adventure theme park... and just be real. When we do, we might discover that our relationships transform in beautiful and meaningful ways, and we're really doing things differently this time instead of being on repeat from a past time.
Vulnerability is the path to connection. The invitation is to accept that first brave step as a limitless gift. In this way, we could be without regret when it comes to our interpersonal relationships. There are people... not all... but a certain few... or certain ones... that could know us with completeness.
一May Universal Loving Presence Prevail