The power of vulnerability (Am I too vulnerable?) [video]

This TED Talk came across my YouTube subscriptions, and shortly thereafter my father-in-law emailed me saying he’d like to hear my thoughts on it. It’s really an interesting lecture about vulnerability, courage and our need for connection. Watch the video. The last third is when it really gets good, but you’ll need the first two-thirds for it to click, so watch the whole thing when you have 20 minutes.

My father-in-law mentioned how intrigued he is by my generation’s ability to be vulnerable. I think my generation and the one after me may make themselves naturally more vulnerable than the baby boomers, but we are still definitely hiding a lot, especially from people we don’t trust.

Just this past weekend I was speaking at a camp. I asked a probing and vulnerable question during one of my sessions and no one really responded. One girl offered a really safe, generic answer, that’s it. But then I answered my own question, risked vulnerability, and as soon as my story was over, three others shared theirs. The only dynamic that changed and caused them to share was that I initiated the vulnerability. It was like everyone else in the room didn’t matter at that point. No one else had necessarily changed — it was just me who took the first step and the group responded. (Of course, small group leaders know this already.)

As I’m interviewing with churches, several (older) people have advised me not to talk about being fired nor struggles with it and to hold off any potential reservations about a youth ministry position until the end of the interviewing process. “Put your best foot forward, earn their respect, and then share any negativity if you must, but do so very carefully and make it look positive.” However, my natural approach is just the opposite. I’m not just trying to land a job here — I want to serve in a place that embraces the real me.

I’ve found that risking vulnerability builds respect much quicker and deeper than presenting a partially-true me. People respect that and tend to return the favor. But even so, we’re all too concerned about what others will think of us because we like to be in control.

Maybe the reason I jump to authenticity and vulnerability too quickly is because that’s what I expect and desire from others? I don’t know… I definitely remember feeling hesitations about risking vulnerability in front of our church congregation when I taught about porn and shared my story in Sunday morning church services. “What if all the youth group girls think I’m a perv? And the moms will never trust me the same again!” Fortunately, I didn’t experience any of that to be true. In fact, weeks after that Sunday, so many people, young and old, came to me wanting to talk about their struggles with porn. And they never would have opened up nor respected my opinions on the subject if I hadn’t risked the vulnerability first.

I’m not really sure I have a point here. Just rambling out loud as I process this video.

What do you think when you watch it? Would love to dialog about it in the comments below.

Posted on January 4, 2011

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