I’ve found I can apply dating principles not only to my relationship with my boyfriend, but also my relationship with my family and friends. I recently mentioned the difficulty and necessity of being honest in dating relationships. Being completely truthful with someone is terrifying.
I naturally want to please other people, and oftentimes, it seems like the easiest way to do that is by glazing over the truth. Not with huge lies. Just polite, little things to avoid hurting people’s feelings and to make them feel good about themselves. But, as I’ve mentioned earlier, any tiny deception can damage a relationship. In fact, you don’t even have to lie. You just have to conceal the truth.
This brings me to vulnerability. To me, vulnerability is about telling the truth when you don’t have to. Of course, we’ve all met those blunt people who don’t hesitate to tell others about their likes and preferences.
“Your haircut is… really… different.”
“Umm, yeah. Trust me, we can tell you just got out of bed.”
“You’ve got something in your teeth. I’ve tried to ignore it for the past few minutes, but it’s really, really bothering me, and I can’t ignore it anymore.”
While it’s great to know if you have something in your teeth, these people don’t risk anything by being honest about their opinions. Vulnerability isn’t just about telling the truth, but about exposing yourself to hurt and pain. Vulnerability means being open and honest even when you’re scared.
Being vulnerable hurts, even when you’re being vulnerable to a loved one. Sometimes, I come away from long talks feeling hollow and empty, like I just poured myself out and got nothing back. Or, like what happened a few days ago, I decided to tell my parents I hadn’t trusted them like I should have. Something came up that I needed to tell my parents about, but my first thought was that I couldn’t tell them. They would just make things more difficult.
This was somewhat alarming. I’d avoided telling them tiny things, and now I was going to avoid telling them about something big, something important to me, something I needed their advice on.
I opened by telling them I hadn’t been as open with them as I should have, and as I tried to explain why, they completely got the wrong message. It was a disastrous miscommunication that ended up alienating myself from my parents. I was crushed and hurt. I could not have imagined a worse way that talk could have gone.
I was outside crying in the rain for a long while, and I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t be vulnerable with some people, like my parents. But that was okay. After all, God had given me other people I could talk to about important things. I would love my parents, and respect them, but I wouldn’t ever trust them with my vulnerability. I’d been so open the first time, and there was no way I’d do that again.
Well, two phone calls later, I did do it again. God has blessed me with people I can talk to and trust, friends who aren’t afraid to read the label on the outside of the bottle for me. They told me I had a responsibility to honor my parents and that God’s given them a very special role in my life. I agreed.
I wasn’t going to be vulnerable because it was fun or easy. I was going to be vulnerable by principle. I can’t control how my parents will react to things, but I can control what I do, and I have a responsibility to be as open with them as possible and to seek their advice and wisdom.
I wrote a letter, expressing everything on paper that I couldn’t with my tongue. I was terrified. My parents had reacted so negatively to the last time I’d been open, and I had been so unprepared. But I wrote that letter because of who I want to be. I want to be vulnerable when it hurts and to respect my parents because that’s what God has called me to do.
My parents read the letter before having a long talk with me. They hadn’t realized they’d heard something different than what I’d been saying. They apologized, and we were all completely open about our fears and wishes for the decision I’d been trying to make.
For that situation, I had a few other options I could have chosen. I could have tried to fight them. I could have apologized for whatever they’d thought I’d done wrong just to get it over with. Instead, I was vulnerable.
I knew the things I wrote in that letter weren’t all things they’d wanted to hear, because if I had to choose being completely honest or pleasing them, I’d choose the former. After that talk, my parents and I realized we both had the same goal for me: to seek God first in everything I do. With that vulnerability came trust and communication in our relationship that could have never happened otherwise.
I was totally prepared for my parents to be angry, but even if my vulnerability had gotten me hurt the day before, I wanted to have the strength to pick myself up the next day, so I could be vulnerable again. No matter how other people react, I want to have such solid character that I can still be the same person and act according to the same principles.
Vulnerability is worth it, even when it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. Trust that God will reward your honesty and work in the other person, so they’ll reciprocate your openness. Stick to your principles, especially not when it’s not easy. And lastly, be vulnerable not according to circumstance, but by choice.
What things are you not sharing, because you might get hurt? How has being vulnerable caused you pain in the past?