Vulnerability. The very word can stir fear in the hearts of the many. People don’t want to be vulnerable or exposed. It puts them at risk of ridicule and judgement. They might lose friends or family. By golly, people might actually get to know them!
But, vulnerability from a spiritual perspective is about letting life in. Many years ago, Dr. Peebles said to me, “What the world wants from you is YOU, Summer.” And, I remember thinking, “No way. The world couldn’t possibly want the real me.” In other words, I was trying to live life from the outside in, basing my “success” and/or “failure” as a human being on how people responded to me. If I made nice, and made them smile, then I was a “success.” If I didn’t cause any ripples, and complied with all that they asked of me, then I was a “success.” If I didn’t raise any eyebrows by saying controversial things, then I was a “success.” I was looking to the world, instead of God, for my validation.
Let me explain. When my ex-husband spread lies and rumors around our small town community stating that I was bi-sexual, drug-addicted, had-a-man-in-every-state, bi-polar, etc., My children came home from dinner with friends one night and said to me, crying, “Mommy, the waitress at the next table was saying lies about you! Those things aren’t true.” When these rumors started to affect my children, it was a tremendous test of my faith and willingness not to fight back. I think I responded, “Well, that’s okay. They’re entitled to their opinions. I know who I am, and you know who I am, so we just need to go on with our lives.”
I thought about this intensely for the next 24 hours, however, because in truth I wanted retribution. I wanted to shout to the people of our town, “You have no idea what I have been through!” I wanted to tell people about the spousal abuse I endured, and who this man really was. I thought about legal retaliation, suing him for slander. I was tied in knots, and lost hours of my life struggling with my pain and anger.
Then it dawned on me. If I began this fight, I would end up fighting to preserve my reputation for the rest of my life. And, for what? Did it really matter? My relationship was with God, after all. And, especially, my relationship was primarily with myself. I was good with me. I felt clean inside. And, please understand that I do not mean “clean” in that I wasn’t “bi-sexual, drug-addicted, had-a-man-in-every-state, bi-polar, etc.” I wasn’t, and I frankly don’t see any of those things as making anyone less than perfect, less than human or less than lovable, anymore than I should be feared or reprimanded for being a trance medium. Those were distinctly my ex-husband’s judgements and fears, not mine. I was clean and clear in my own knowing of who I am, what I am about. I was clean and clear in knowing not only my good points, but the areas of my life that needed work. I knew that I was working with and speaking to God honestly every day, and living life in integrity, even if to others my life did not seem to be in balance.
And, that’s where the desire to fight to preserve my reputation disappeared. I knew who I was, and God knew who I was. That was all I needed. So, I moved forward.
“When the weather gets rough, what does the Captain of a ship do, Summy?” my father once asked me. I looked at him, perplexed, unable to answer the question.
“He sails his BEST!” he pronounced.
That is what I decided to do; to sail my best in a perfect storm.
Guess what? Those who judged me fell away, because I didn’t take their bait and fight back. And, those who really heard me, wanted to hear more. I had women who were abused by their husbands seek me out for counseling. I had others who were equally accused of various things contact me and tell me their stories. I “fought back” by simply speaking my truth and being vulnerable in front of my audiences (whether on stage, or standing in line at the grocery store). This whole experience with my ex just fueled my fire to be even more open, more honest. I spoke about everything I had been through, such as bulimia, an indiscrete affair with a married man, parenting foibles, my bankruptcy and foreclosure and more. People came up to me after my seminars stating, “Thank you for telling us your experiences! Now I don’t feel so badly for being ME.” And, because they spoke their truth, I didn’t feel so badly about being me. I realized that I am just a trance medium for spirit, which is not grander than being a clerk, or a professional NASCAR race car driver. It’s just one more way to live life. And, I also prayed for my ex-husband, that he would one day be uplifted in his spirit, and rise above his need to bully and abuse people. I prayed that he would finally love himself, and allow for himself to be loved. I prayed that he would find great success in all areas of his life.
I learned that there’s one thing that we can never do wrong. It is never wrong to LOVE. Love is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult things that we are asked to do, but also one of the easiest once we get the hang of it; starting with loving ourselves.
Being vulnerable means being willing to love ourselves enough to put ourselves out there; to allow the world to judge us, to reject us, to deny us, and to love us. Only then…and truly only then…can we really hear the honest echo of life around us. It may seem impossible to believe, but think about this for a minute. If you show yourself (are vulnerable) with the world, you might hear the response, “That’s ridiculous! I cannot be your friend anymore if you believe life to be that way!”
However, instead of fearing “Oh no! They think my perspective is ridiculous! What have I done? Why did I expose myself?” realize that you now know more about who they are, and what they feel about you. They have just told you about themselves. You put your beautiful, vulnerable self out there, and life then responded honestly. And, imagine this: Someone nearby might say, “WOW! I just overheard what you said to your friend! That’s so cool! Tell me more! I want to know more about you, and why you feel that way.” Suddenly you have a new friend who truly appreciates and understands you. No longer do you have to live life as a facade. Woo hoo! Dance a jig! Free at last! Free at last! Thank God, you are free at last!
This is the key to finding yourself surrounded by people of like mind and like heart. How do I know? Well, for a woman who, as a child, was determinedly shy and reclusive, I have more true friends (who are like family to me) than I can count. I fear judgement less, and embrace my authentic self more. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to be me, and it’s such a relief to feel to feel this kind of peace.
When you are vulnerable, you not only set yourself free, you open yourself up to allowing life in, and that includes God and spirit. It sets the stage for contact with the many, rather than the few.
[To be continued…]