Vulnerability: courage to be imperfect.
At our Beyond the Streets Gathering in March, Elaine Storkey* navigated us through the concept of vulnerability drawing from biblical principles to show how love is only possible, only real when we, like God are willing to embrace our own vulnerability. Those who are vulnerable are those who are able to be wounded.
Having conducted hundreds of interviews and spent 6 years collecting data on people and vulnerability, Brené Brown*1 found that her interviewees divided themselves into 2 categories: those who have a sense of worthiness, love and belonging and those who struggle with it. What does this mean? She found it to mean that the first group were those who were able to embrace vulnerability, to believe that ‘what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.’ She calls them the ‘whole-hearted people.’ What does this whole-heartedness enable us to do then? She says it gives: first a sense of courage to be imperfect; secondly, true compassion which means we can be kind to ourselves first and then to others; thirdly, connection as a result of authenticity.
All just to end up looking ‘unprofessional?’ Doesn’t it mean that boundaries become blurred and we are left exposed and ineffective? Brown says that those who are most compassionate are the people who have the best boundaries. She suggests that compassion comes out of the ‘deeply held belief that we are inextricably linked together in love.’ It is being beside someone in their suffering, not looking at them and feeling sorry. We can only do that when we are clear what we can give and what we cannot. So, we can be really vulnerable when we know what is ok for us and what is not ok.
We get this by our own sense of love and belonging.
We are not defined by what we do for people but by who we are.
So, we offer people real respect, not fake walls; genuine feeling-with-someone empathy, not self-defining sympathy. We can feel and communicate deep love for a person without being crushed when they are not in a position to see beyond their own pain and circumstances. This is vulnerable love. It is also sustainable love.
Words By Miriam Hargreaves, Support Worker and Clinical lead for Beyond Support – our free call-back support service for women exploited through prostitution.
*Dr Elaine Storkey – Author of Scars Across Humanity, Academic, Speaker, Broadcaster. Buy her book ‘Scars Across Humanity’ here.
*1 Brené Brown – Research Professor, Author, Public Speaker, Licensed Master Social Worker. Listen to her advice on Boundaries & Compassion here.