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  • There are aspects to all of us that, if they were exposed to a harsh or unsympathetic critic,

  • would result in severe humiliation and mockery. From close up, we are, none of us, reliably

  • impressive. We get agitated, fretful, cantankerous and panicky. Under the pressure of events,

  • we shout, slam doors and let out screams (or wails). We have episodes of absurd clumsiness,

  • we bump into doors, trip and drop things down our front. We're worried pretty much all the

  • time: about how others see us, about where our careers are going, and about everything

  • important that we have forgotten to do in our lives. We long for love, but are unthinking

  • and insensitive around those close to us. We are gauche in our efforts to seduce and

  • pitiful in our requests for attention. Our bodies have a range of shameful habits and

  • vulnerabilities. We are, from certain angles, truly embarrassing propositions.

  • All this we struggle to hide. The inner idiot is carefully monitored and ruthlessly gagged.

  • We have learnt from our earliest years that the only priority around vulnerability is

  • to disguise it completely. We strive remorselessly to look composed, to erase the evidence of

  • our silliness and to try to appear a great deal more 'normal' than we know we are.

  • We are understandably very focused on the downsides of vulnerability. What is far less

  • well-recognised is vulnerability's occasional very significant and profound upsides.

  • There are moments when the revelation of weakness, far from being a catastrophe, is the only

  • possible route to connection and respect. At points we may dare to explain, with rare

  • frankness, that we are afraid, that we are sometimes bad and that we have done many silly

  • things. And rather than appalling our companions, these revelations may serve to endear us to

  • them, humanising us in their eyes, and letting them feel that their own vulnerabilities have

  • echoes in the lives of others. Together, we realise that the definition of what is normal

  • has missed out on key aspects of our mutual reality.

  • In other words, vulnerability can be a bedrock of friendship, friendship properly understood

  • not just, or primarily, as a process of admiration but as an exchange of sympathy and consolation

  • for the troublesome business of being alive. There can, of course, be unfortunate ways

  • of handling vulnerability: when we do so in the form of an aggressive demand that others

  • rescue us, or when our frailties lack boundaries, or when we are close to rage and hysteria

  • rather than melancholy and grief. Good vulnerability doesn't expect another

  • person to solve our difficulties; we let them see a tricky part of who we are, simply in

  • the hope that they will be emboldened to feel more at ease with their own, less dignified

  • sides. Good vulnerability is fundamentally generous: it takes the first step at disclosure

  • so as to render it safe for others to unburden themselves and disclose something of their

  • hidden selves in turn. It is a gift in the form of a risk taken for someone else.

  • Furthermore, displays of vulnerability have a curious way of signalling that we are, despite

  • the embarrassing avowals, far from fundamentally ridiculous or pitiful. We are, rather, strong

  • enough to be weak; to let our silliness, our idiocy, our anger and our sadness show, confident

  • that these do not have to be the final verdicts on who we are. We proceed with a bold sense

  • that despite the lack of surface evidence, everyone is in the end as wounded, aggrieved,

  • worried and damaged as we are and that we are not therefore, through our disclosures,

  • casting ourselves out of the clan for good: we are simply reconfirming our essential membership

  • of the human race. It is something of a minor tragedy that we

  • should spend so much of our lives striving to hide our weakness when it is in fact only

  • upon the dignified sharing of vulnerability that true friendship and love

  • can arise.

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There are aspects to all of us that, if they were exposed to a harsh or unsympathetic critic,

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B1 UK vulnerability friendship dignified weakness embarrassing lack

The Importance of Vulnerability

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    osmend posted on 2017/09/23
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