Let's Get Psyched: Talk About Vulnerable!

by Randy Kiel | June 7, 2019

Deacon Randy Kiel

So, there was the day my family was all sitting around the “screen” to watch some 50ish year old man free-fall from a plane before his parachute opened. For some 60 second he plummeted toward Earth. While flipping and tumbling, he picked up speed; his face became more and more contorted. He probably didn’t have the most toned face to begin with, maybe even a bit jowly, but with a tornado-like wind of more than 200 mph hitting his face, he hardly looked human. My family’s laughter escalated into hilarity.

I will admit that I too was giggling a little inside underneath my internal shock of horror for this poor man, but self pity is hard to express let alone public humiliation. This terrified man was me. At this point, in order to save face with my family, I faked my laughter as if I was enjoying the experience of watching my face look like a distorted bowl of red Jell-O. Then another beloved child shouted, “Look at Dad’s eyes. It’s like he’s looking at his death!” “Ha, ha, ha!” That’s right. I thought I was.

To this day, I am still baffled that I actually sky dived and lived. It was a tandem jump from 13,500 feet above the farmlands of Iowa. While ascending in the plane, I looked out the window and asked, “Is that Lake Michigan?” “No” my tandem-jumping partner replied, “It’s only the horizon.” I’m quite sure I saw the Sear’s Tower. I finally got the courage to speak out my deepest vulnerable feeling of the moment to my new best friend, “I am afraid!” “Ah, you’ll love it”, he said, “It’ll be the best 60 seconds of your life!”

It wasn’t.

Now that time has passed and vulnerability has decreased in this family story, I can laugh about it with them, just maybe not quite as loudly as the rest of the family.

 Isn’t vulnerability hard? We crave intimacy and closeness, yet when posed with an opportunity to be vulnerable we oftentimes choke. Being vulnerable is the key to intimacy, the fullness of being known by another. So, what is it about being vulnerable that makes us fight it so hard? The verb vulnare (Lt.) means to wound. This definition, then, indicates that we are most vulnerable where we are wounded. Please be careful not to become defensive at this point of the article. This is not about strength vs. weakness. Vulnerability is one of the natural consequences of being created human. Even Adam and Eve were vulnerable to temptation simply because God willed it this way. They were created only in the image of God, not to be a God.

We have all been wounded in life. Whether by abuse, criticism, neglect, failure, or omission, wounds leave us vulnerable. Many times we are aware of these wounds and other times these wounds live undetected within our subconscious, or at least until we feel vulnerability. The fear of vulnerability does not mean passivity or submissiveness. To the contrary, it means the courage to be you, wounds and all. It is in being your true self that the risk of rejection is at its peak. It involves uncertainty and the chance of emotional exposure. It is now that another opportunity for wounding exists.

So what is the consequence of being inauthentic? Disconnection. When we attempt to fool others by appearing perfect, strong, holy, intelligent, all put together, or cool in order to connect, pretense will have the opposite effect upon people. Those desiring to be relational will naturally pull away and retract. Research shows that when we are around pretentious people, we have a physiological response through the elevation of our blood pressure. We can see by this, that we resonate far too deeply with others not to perceive inauthenticity. People can see the falseness of others if they look carefully. People can also see authenticity if looking carefully. At first glace of Jesus upon the cross, He was just another condemned criminal. But if one looked closer, they could see their Savior and Redeemer. It was from upon his cross that Christ gave pure vulnerability to us. May we know that in order to be loved as He loved, we must allow ourselves to be seen as who we are. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. What a gift!

Randy Kiel

Randy Kiel is the founder of Kardia Counseling and is a deacon serving at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Des Moines, Iowa. To connect with Deacon Randy, email randy@kardiacounseling.com.