Just the other day I was working with a couple whose relationship was built on a fantasy bond rather than true intimacy. In other words, they pretended to be close, but each wore a thick coat of self-protection preventing the development of a truly intimate connection.
Knowing that this couple is far from being alone, I decided to look up the definition of the word vulnerability. After all, vulnerability is necessary if true intimacy (being known fully) is to exist. Although I know that vulnerability means feeling open and exposed, I wanted to see how Merriam defined the word.
Vulnerability was defined as the quality or state of having little resistance to some outside agent. This wasn’t what surprised me.
No, what shocked me was the list of synonyms and related words that dictionary listed under the word vulnerability.
Weakness…Helplessness..Powerless..Passiveness..Passivity.. Feebleness..Frailness!! Really? Are you kidding me?
Wow! If people believe that vulnerability makes them weak, passive, feeble, and frail, how will they ever let their guard down and experience a truly emotional intimate connection? After all, intimacy involves being truly known and one can’t open up and take off that layer of self-protection without being vulnerable. If people view vulnerability the same way this dictionary views vulnerability (which many do) than no wonder they don’t want to let their guard down.
It is true that not all people are safe and it is wise to use discretion before “letting it all hang out”, but if we believe that vulnerability is synonymous with weakness we may avoid it at all costs. And the cost will be missing out on ever experiencing a truly intimate connection. And this would be a great loss!
It is easier to hide behind our great-coat of self-protection, our defenses, and our ego than it is to become vulnerable. To become vulnerable is an act of great courage- not a weakness at all!