I’ve never met someone who isn’t vulnerable.
I’ve met a lot of people who others claim are not vulnerable.
But I’ve never actually met someone who isn’t vulnerable. Who doesn’t know how to be vulnerable. And who won’t share their true self.
In the right environment, that is.
Vulnerability is not a one-man show.
In an inviting atmosphere surrounded by the right person or people who affirm value, express interest, and create a safely wise environment, I have found that people are very willing to be vulnerable.
These are what I’ve observed to be the worst ways to go about getting someone to be more vulnerable:
- Confronting them about their unwillingness to be vulnerable
- Critiquing them for not sharing
- Calling them out on it, especially in the presence of others
- Telling others of your frustration with their unwillingness to be vulnerable
- Blaming them
If someone isn’t being vulnerable, they weren’t waiting to get critiqued to start being vulnerable. They weren’t sitting there thinking, “Now once I’m publically embarrassed, then I’ll be ready to be vulnerable.” What these things are actually likely to accomplish is sealing the deal. It will confirm for them that they were wise not to be vulnerable around you. It also has a way of making them regret when they were vulnerable, and it nearly ascertains that they will not be vulnerable with you in the future.
Unfortunately, that’s not progress. Or healthy. Or helpful for the kingdom.
Instead, for most every problem, we can help contribute to the solution.
We simply affirm
There is no harm in trying any of these things. The world will not be a worse place if we value people more, show more interest in them, and create safer environments. So at the very least, you’ll make the world a better place. You may also get that vulnerability you’ve been craving. And… you could possibly even revolutionize someone’s world.
Seriously. Some people do not know they are valuable. They have never been treated as valuable. Or worse, someone has told them they are not valuable. They may have grown up in a home where it was best to be seen and not heard, they may have a spouse who treats them in a way that communicates they lack worth, or they may work in an environment where they are consistently devalued. They may not even realize that they don’t realize they are valuable. (You may need to read that one again!)
If someone doesn’t know they are valuable, it likely doesn’t occur to them that they have anything valuable to share. You may need to not only affirm their value, but also help them discover what specifically about them is valuable.
Almost every person with whom I have worked who has been critiqued for not being vulnerable has been abused in their life. (I’m saying almost to allow for an exception, but in all honesty, I can’t think of one.) Sometimes the mistreatment has been by others, and the vulnerability-critiquer is simply experiencing the effects. Yet other times, unintentionally, it is by the critiquer himself.
So the first thing we can do is be sure we are not unintentionally harming them. That we are refraining from presuming to know their thoughts and motives and negatively characterizing them. That we are not thinking things about them that are not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. That we don’t just gloss over a list like that, but we consider each word intentionally and ask the Lord to convict our hearts if we’ve thought or said anything to them or about them that does not fit God’s desire for our hearts and minds. If we’ve thought it, we confess it to the Lord. If we’ve said it, we confess it to them.
So the first step towards their becoming more vulnerable around us may actually fall on us.
Secondly, we need to be sure we are convinced they have value. To treat someone as valuable, we need to be convinced of their value. God creates masterpieces. If you need help seeing how this person is a masterpiece and a precious creation of God, then ask Him. He delights to reveal His beauty.
Believe they are valuable, and begin to see what is valuable about them.
After you start to see their beauty and value, affirm it in them. If they’re not aware of it, you will change their life. Literally. They will begin to see how the Lord has wired them. They will begin to embrace it. And your delighting with them over how the Lord has created them opens a precious door. You will begin to get a sweet taste of that intimacy you’ve been craving.
And what I love about valuing others – it’s fun!
This is one of the many reasons I love the charge to
Encourage one another daily.
There are so many messages of how we are not valuable – or what is valuable to the world. And there are precious few recalibrations of what the Lord finds valuable. Encouraging one another daily is simply stating what you see in them that God likes, delights in, and created. What in them resonates with Who the Lord is? Maybe they are artistic. Maybe they are creative. Maybe they are a good listener. Maybe they have done something thoughtful. Maybe they are committed to God’s Word. Maybe they are a prayer warrior. Calling out the Lord in them fills them with strength. It fills them with courage. It calls out their value.
Affirming value is the first step towards vulnerability. Believe they are valuable, and share that value with them. It’s amazing the impact calling out someone’s value has.
I’ll leave us time to wrestle with that today. How can you affirm someone’s value today?
Up next: Expressing interest and being a wisely safe environment.