Building Community through Vulnerability

Last Monday I wrote about my big Facebook announcement and how vulnerable it made me feel. Thankfully, the video has generated a number of likes, shares, and comments, all of them positive. That, combined with an earlier post on how community can help or hinder the healing process, has got me thinking about how emotional vulnerability can help us build helpful, supportive, healing communities.

The word vulnerable derives from vulnus, the Latin word for wound, and it means "open to attack, harm or damage." "Open to" - not damaged yet, not broken yet, but allowing for that potential. The second half of the word is, of course "able." This openness to wounding, in a playful moment, could therefore be construed as a capability, an asset.

And indeed it is. Choosing vulnerability implies that we have agency; we had a choice, after all. Being open to harm means that the part of ourselves that we are willing to expose, to open, must be very important to us. If it wasn't important, we could not be harmed by its destruction. Choosing to be vulnerable, therefore, means that we are exposing the most essential parts of ourselves, our truest being-ness.

Emotional vulnerability is therefore a tool, one among many, that is necessary to building a true healing community. Without it, we are not exposing our most essential selves, thereby cutting off the opportunity for deep relationship. Those deep relationships - with ourselves, our families and friends - are the hidden gift of emotional vulnerability. It is where we, in concert with others, cultivate our most essential selves. When we choose vulnerability, we are using our agency to ask for that gift of deep relationship, putting our power and attention behind a decision to grow and change on a deep level. The word heal is derived from a root meaning literally, "to make whole," and we cannot become whole if we leave out our most essential self.

Vulnerability isn't always chosen, though; it is also thrust upon us, as in our infancy. And the experience of vulnerability alone, chosen or no, is not in and of itself enough to build community. Think of all the times you were vulnerable and were treated poorly; those moments erode trust, another factor important for building a tribe. It is vulnerability met with love that leads to healing, and not vulnerability met with anything less.

You can empower yourself on your healing journey by using your emotional vulnerability when you think it will be met with love. Each time you do, you are watering the garden of your soul, building your community, and coming one step closer to healing your mind, body and soul.