One of my favorite quotes of all time is by the brilliant C. S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
In light of that wisdom, I want to give practical steps for vulnerability. We often put up “walls” when we are insecure due to present, past, or anticipated danger. This can look like shutting down (not responding, not contributing to conversation, isolating) or getting defensive (smart remarks, aggressive comments, explosive rants). These behaviors are understandable to create space within relationships in rare cases* but we don’t want to live in patterns like that. Through the redemptive love of Jesus, we can have better interactions than those.
The first step to letting down your walls is to acknowledge that you are safe. I’ll pull another quote straight from my childhood:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” -Princess Diaries
When you’re around someone and your walls go up, focus on enjoying every breath and relaxing any tense muscles. Sit like you deserve a seat at the table because you do. You have value, you have security, you have belonging that cannot be taken from you.
The next step I want you to take is learning a new language, but you won’t need Duolingo or Rosetta Stone for this one. I’m talking about the language of the person across from you. There’s an entire culture existing in that person’s mind that you’re going to step into with the sole motivation of respectful exploration and wonder. Without learning the language of that culture, you’re going to keep running into miscommunication and confusion. Start simple.
How’s work going?
What have you been up to lately?
What are you looking forward to?
If there’s one dependable trait of humans it’s that they love talking about themselves. That’s what keeps my coaching and discipleship sessions afloat. The pressure is no longer on you to contribute things you aren’t comfortable sharing or to defend things you have shared. You’re in a neutral conversation that’s creating connection between the two of you.
The next step will carry you through the rest of your relationship from that point forward. Observe. As the other person opens up, you’ll likely see there is good in them as much as there is pain. You can develop more compassion toward them and even fondness for the unique life they lead. You’ll begin to see a person in front of you instead of a threat.
For any of this to work, you have to decide for yourself that love is worth the risk: the risk of being rejected, the risk of being hurt, the risk of being vulnerable. Give yourself grace because it can take a lot of convincing to believe you are safe. Remember that God is with you, defending you, telling you not to be afraid. And give yourself grace because relationships take time to rebuild. You’re not in a hurry and there’s no divine expectation of you other than to love.
The last quote I’ll leave you with is from my book that will be released this summer:
“When our souls are vessels for the eternal love of God, the resource is not rare anymore— just priceless.“
You are never ask risk for running out of love. God supplies it. He is it. A fountain is pouring out in you. What do you want to do with it today?
*Rare cases are abusive or inappropriate relationships, not people who get on your nerves. For more information on the nature of abusive relationships and getting help, go to https://www.thehotline.org/help/