About a year after stepping more intensively into my spiritual journey, a series of events happened that pushed me into an entirely different understanding of what it means to be on a spiritual path. I learned that integrity is the most important companion to have on this journey. I also learned that vulnerability is the foundation on which integrity stands.
To be vulnerable means to offer your unprotected heart and truth to others without expectation that they will offer you the same in return. When we are being vulnerable, we offer forward our flaws and limitations, we are the first to acknowledge our contribution to any disharmony, and we are willing to be wrong. We show ourselves in our imperfection as well as our strength.
Walking this path with our weaknesses front and center, leading by offering our humanity, ensures that we are doing the necessary work to be a worthy vessel for all of the blessings that we receive. It ensures that the power that is put in our hands is put into hands that can truly use it for good.
It opens us to a level of spiritual teaching that is otherwise inaccessible.
It takes an exceptionally strong, psychologically and spiritually mature person to show up vulnerably. When we do, people will sometimes project their ignorance and their own weaknesses on to us. They can blame us for their oversights and expect us to right their wrongs. Sometimes, to the untrained eyes, our vulnerability defines us as less than. To stay the course, we must know ourselves well and our connection to the spirit deeply so that we can allow for this misunderstanding, keep our heart open, and continue to offer ourselves fully
Our expression of vulnerability is an opportunity for others to open up and be vulnerable themselves. When the invitation of vulnerability is received, it is possible for another person to meet us there in that vulnerable space and create a depth of healing that would otherwise be unrealizable. This potentiates the growth of both parties.
As we are entrusted with profound spiritual insights that come from our spiritual seeking, it is exceptionally easy to trick ourselves into believing that our intentions are pure and altruistic when in fact they are actually highly sophisticated expressions of our ego. Vulnerability is the key to unlocking our spiritual development rather than developing a spiritualized ego—where we only see our self in a positive light, identify our self with the spiritual gifts we have received, and place our shadow aspects onto others.
Being vulnerable ensures that we look at ourselves first before offering corrections, feedback, and opinions to others. It asks us to own our mistakes and approach with an attitude of learning. And, when we forget to do this, it reminds us to make amends as soon as possible. This prevents us from becoming righteous and, because of this, doing more harm than good.
For me, the most profound teacher of vulnerability, both its challenges and its power, is Jesus. Jesus said, “Let he among you who is innocent cast the first stone.” He said this to a group of people who had come to believe that they were morally superior and so their cruelty was justified. The teaching from this story is that when we lose sight of our own limitations, even if we are acting based on supposed spiritual principles, we are misguided in our actions.
Each day, we are presented with many opportunities where we can either be vulnerable or cast the first stone. Our choices release us from our burdens or add to them. The more weight we let go of, the more light we can let in.
I know that, at my current level of development, it often takes me time to remember to put my vulnerability forward immediately and without qualification. It is so much easier to make myself vulnerable after I have created security through being validated or a establishing a feeling of control. Slowly, I am learning to trust the spirit more and surrender more quickly without needing these compensations. As I do, my burdens become lighter and my spiritual insights more profound.
In the end, all we have is the truth of our heart. It will not matter how many times we were right, if we were truly understood, or whether we had the respect and acknowledgement of those around us. It will matter that we have made amends where we have hurt others, owned our limitations, and—as much as possible—done no harm. To do this, we need to learn the lessons of vulnerability.
Join me for my Integrative Healing Apprenticeship to step deeper into your vulnerability and find the spiritual gold within it.
When someone close to us is acting in a way that is difficult for us, our response is often defensive—we react to their behavior. We feel like we need to do something about it—for example, we might believe we need to draw a line to make it clear that other person has done wrong in some way, or make a correction to their behavior.
This comes in part from our need to protect ourselves or from our desire to make sure that whatever we don’t like doesn’t keep happening. While putting boundaries in place and communicating with other people in this way is an important skill—particularly when dealing with certain people—there’s also another way of approaching disagreements that can be very helpful.
This other way is to ask the person to join into the experience that you want to have with them. This requires us to be aware of what we would like to have happen in the moment when it is not happening as well as to be emotionally clear enough to act on this knowledge.
There is often an assumption that, when someone does something that we don’t like, they did it intentionally, they were not able to see something, or they just disregarded our needs. But most often, other people are simply not aware of what it is that we want or need. And many people have not become skilled at saying what it is that they do want and need.
When you are in a situation where someone in your life is not acting the way you would like, try inviting this person into the type of experience that you want rather than challenging, defending, or putting a boundary in place, and just see how it goes.
If, for example, I want to work on communication with someone and they’re not giving me the type of communication I want, I could respond by saying something such as, “Well, you’re not communicating with me, and that is a problem for me.” It is clear in my response that I do not like the behavior and also that I am feeling defensive. Because of my response, the other person might become a bit defensive themselves, and we will likely bounce our hurt and defenses off of each other.
Or, I can come into the situation and say something like, “What would really feel good to me is more communication, and this is what it would look like to have that.” With this example, I have gotten rid of the layers of defensiveness and simply invited the person into the way of being in our relationship that I would like most.
While not everyone will be able to rise to the occasion, when it does work, you will see just how powerful this method can be. It might actually become an essential new aspect of your repertoire—a new way of relating to others, a tool that helps you get back on track and create more of what you want in your life.
For more tips and tricks on how to create your life in an empowered way, check out my youtube videos here.
You might notice that as you begin to change your life, you will see changes in your relationships. Sometimes, unfortunately, change means some relationships will need to fall away, but the ones that do not – or the new ones – will likely get deeper and more fulfilling. For those who have not had the joy of being in a fulfilling relationship, I will spend a bit of time describing some of what you might look to foster in your relationships.
Of course, you are the final judge of what truly makes you happy and fulfilled in a relationship, but these might offer some useful signposts.
Open communication: Knowing what you think and feel and being willing to share it.
Trust: Behaving in a way that is trustworthy, fostering trust and being more trusting.
Respect: Understanding that the other person is an individual and should not be criticized for not being like you or any other person.
Love:I like the expression, “Love is a verb.” Healthy relationships seek to continually work to foster love through behavior.
Integrity: The understanding that each person has his or her won path and it is not loving to take them off their path.
Partnership: The desire to share life – its struggles and its joys.