What If: True Vulnerability is the Cost of Love?

How much does that cost? We learn that question very early in life, and if you are anything like me, you understand quickly that it is always about weighing the cost. What will the reward or pleasure be? How much will I have to give up of ____ to have ____? I’m not a tempered shopper. I often impulse buy with little regard for the consequences. The same cannot be said of the 3 other humans that live in my home. When I shop with my oldest for a special occasion, I hide the price tags because she will not even consider a precious dress or a perfect pair of shoes if they require a financial sacrifice. I love this about my family, but sometimes I just want them to shop with their heart!

As I have explored the many things that we have discussed in the past 5 weeks, I have often asked myself, what is it going to “cost” me if I say this out loud? What if someone that I admire disagrees? What if I forever change a relationship because I said something that I can’t (and don’t want to) take back? These things are the risky cost of living as your true self. People will not understand. People will doubt your motives. Especially if your growth is producing a shift and that shift changes the relationships in your life.

For those of us that long for more wholeness in our lives, who are striving to connect with people in ways and spaces that our past tells us are not safe, we have a high price to pay. The more I love, the more I work towards healthy loving relationships, the more I realize that the cost associated with love is vulnerability. This freaking word. It invades my life in ways that make me feel like I am being consumed. Yet, when I engage in the quest for my vulnerable self, when I dig deep into the well of truth telling and honoring feelings, the more I find a new and profound connection with the humans in my life. The guru of vulnerable space is my girl Dr. Brené Brown.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” 

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”

Brene Brown, Rising Strong

There is nothing I long for more in life than to be labeled a badass. It is truly #mylifegoal. The word itself is rich, but the strength behind it is not found in the ability to tell someone off or manipulate a situation. A real badass is someone who can stare the scariest of the scary in the face, and with all of the trust and humility they can muster, long to grow and be shaped by pain. There is nothing in the world that can do this better or more completely than vulnerability.

When we get vulnerable, we have to release the outcomes. When we allow others to see the truth of our lives, we have to believe them when they say they love us. When we walk through pain and the shredding of ego that is at the heart of vulnerable living, we can receive the great reward of love. But then, and only then, do we have the ability to love in return. Here is my theory: without a genuine vulnerable exposure of self, we will always know that we have a way out. When we keep pieces of ourself off the table of exposure, we will never trust love. If you have ever thought, “they will walk away if they know…” you understand this truth. A vulnerable posture, a truly vulnerably navigated relationship, has no room for ‘I just can’t go there’ thinking. To love is to give yourself away, even the messy, fragile, intimate, scary pieces that are sure to make you think, “Why did I say that out loud?”

If you have ever had a friend or a partner or a family member that has been the recipient of your vulnerable spaces, you know this feeling. I have been known to fear the next conversation or even dread the time and space that my vulnerable moments will be used against me. And, in the spirit of honesty, that has happened. There is nothing that stings like that knife wound. But, if you have experienced the gift of ‘I’m still here’ or ‘you can’t scare me away’ you know the treasure of vulnerability. Hold it close, because that is love.

What If: Pain is the Great Teacher

I hate pain. H-A-T-E pain. Pain is a feeling. It hurts in its own way, but it has tentacles of sadness and betrayal and worry and fear. It brings with it the discomfort of the unknown. It reveals internal struggles that we want to avoid. Pain stings with truth and awareness that is raw and real and exposing. Damn pain. And yet as I fight the pain, I hear the stories of brave pain facers that have walked into the fire for the sake of the growth.

“Pain is not tragic. Pain is magic. Suffering is tragic. Suffering is what happens when we avoid pain and consequently miss our becoming. This is what I can and must avoid: missing my own evolution because I am too afraid to surrender to the process…Because what scares me a hell of a lot more than pain is living my entire life and missing my becoming. What scares me more than feeling it all is missing it all.”

Glennon Doyle, Untamed

There are three things that I know about pain. Please recognize with me that this is head knowledge. Only on the very best days, the days when all the stars and positivity and good thoughts march in an ordered system of understanding, can I find peace within my soul to embrace these things. So, I share them not as brilliant insights, but as marching orders for myself.

  1. Pain requires me to let go of control. At the very core of my being (just read the description of my Enneagram type) is the need to have knowledge of the next step. I have to know. I need to have the plan. When pain comes, I am completely ripped of my safety net. There is absolutely nothing like pain to remove all of the anchors of security. When pain begins to creep up, or slams its ugly head into me in a way that is jarring, I have no choice but to let go.
  2. It’s my choice to change the storyline. To be clear, this is not diminishing or denying pain. This is not even avoiding. Changing the storyline is an intentional decision in my mind to accept the things that I cannot change and tell myself (as many times as necessary) that past experiences show me that pain can transform and beautify so I will not fight the pain…today.
  3. Breathe When I feel pain, I tense my muscles. When my body is distressed, I panic at my core. In seasons of prolonged pain – both physical and emotional – my body bears the scars. My shoulders have knots. My breathing is irregular and shallow. Although it is not a natural response, my best pain remedy is a good deep breath. I breath from my toes. I allow the oxygen to go all the way to the roots of my pain. No, it doesn’t fix it, but it forces my body to slow and think and not react. That’s the single most important thing I can do in moments of pain.

I don’t want to admit it, but pain is a teacher. It teaches me to be myself. It teaches me to listen. It teaches me to slow down. Reacting and in the midst of pain is the warning flag, so for today, I feel you pain. I see you. I acknowledge your presence. I invite you to teach me. I give you permission to shape me for good. And I choose in that process to let go, change the storyline and breathe.

What If: Our Ability to “Let Someone Have It’’ is Really a Revelation of Trust?

I was listening to a brilliant podcast this week and the interview spoke to this idea. I was immediately challenged to think about the truth behind this comment. The discussion stemmed from the distance between a father and daughter of more than 13 years. As they rebuilt their relationship, there was a moment where the wounds of the past exploded in the fury of hurt. It was in that space that the dad, Lenny Duncan, said:

“We were a year and a half into living as a family and she was doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing and I called her out on it. And she let me fucking have it. She said, ‘You ruined my fucking life. You destroyed everything. I’ve never had a family. I’ve never felt love. I’ve never felt like I had any worth. You stole everything from me.’ She screamed, Nadia, three inches from my face. And I walked outside and I got on the phone with my friend and weeped, tears of joy, because we knew she trusted me enough to let me have it, which means she knew I was not leaving.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify something that is key to this question. For this conversation,”letting someone have it” is speaking your truth. It is summoning the courage to finally say the things that have been on your heart and trusting someone enough to hear your deepest pain and most agonizing fear. This is truth telling and honesty, not shaming or berating. There is absolutely no excuse, no reason, to brutally wound with dagger pointed words, especially if there is not the established safety or security of relationship. That is manipulative abuse, not trust. Period.

Trust building is a sacred gift. By navigating the waters of pain and hurt and loneliness and fear alongside a co-journeyer, we invite others to battle with and take care of our hearts. As I listened to the revelation of trust in this father/daughter moment, I was reminded of times in my own life where I have broken through to new levels of connection with those that I have allowed into my inner sacred spaces. For people with wounds, and let’s be honest that’s most of us have them, we guard the soft spots. We know that by allowing others to see the vulnerable spots, we are risking further hurt. To find the level of trust that reveals love in the midst of the moments of fear of rejection is to launch a relationship into the next dimension.

If you have ever lost it, lost it in a way that all you could do was yell and scream and cry because rational thought has no accurate expression of your internal chaos, you know this kind of risk. But to have the one that you lost it on offer compassion or a unrelenting hug or a “I don’t care and I love you more because you just said that” is an absolute game changer.

Might I offer us all a challenge? Especially for those who need a little feisty release – let them have it. Let the person that you love and trust and are not quite sure how to express yourself to have that risky moment of truth telling. Not because you need to blow your top. Not because you need to yell. Not even because you have some things bottled up under pressure and they don’t have an exit pathway. Do it because YOU need to be you and they need to know that you trust them. I promise, these moments are magic.