Being vulnerable with another person can be difficult. Especially if we’ve been taught that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness and having emotional needs is wrong. But when we hide our vulnerability out of ‘shame’ it often surfaces in other ways; such as through anger, manipulation, and control.
Here’s an example. I’m somewhat introverted and occasionally I get uncomfortable in social situations. My husband and I were at one such gathering at our church. We were sitting at a table by ourselves waiting for some others to join us. He was playing with his phone and I was getting increasingly more uncomfortable. Now the honest and vulnerable thing to say would have been: “Honey, you know how I can get really uncomfortable at these things, can you please put your phone away and talk to me until this thing gets started? It would really help me feel at ease.”
Of course that’s not what I said because admitting weakness and vulnerability feels shameful. Instead I grab my phone and (after a dramatic sigh) say: “Well, I guess I’ll just play with my phone since I have no-one to talk to.”
Now we’re both irritated and uncomfortable, and later I feel the need to apologize for my indirect and fearful means of communication. Maybe he was wrong to play with his phone and ignore me, but the way I expressed my feelings made me look wrong. You see, it’s possible to be ‘right’ and still be ‘wrong’ because of how we choose to express ourselves.
Being vulnerable means digging beneath the anger, hurt, or fear and getting to the real need; then communicating it in a healthy way. When we do it can lead to healing in ourselves, and it can strengthen our relationships with others. When we don’t it can be destructive because it further isolates ourselves from others; and isolation is the perfect ‘soil’ for anger and bitterness to grow.