On Love and Vulnerability

C.S Lewis once said the following: (source: Goodreads.com)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I’m sure all of us have been hurt by another person or animal at some point in our lives.  Some of you may have been hurt many times, you may have thought to yourself (maybe consciously, but maybe unconsciously): ” I will never give my heart to anyone again!  I will keep everyone at arm’s length so that I won’t get hurt ever again. ”  Seems logical, doesn’t it? If you don’t let anyone in your heart, you won’t get hurt by anyone either.  Unfortunately, as C.S Lewis says in this quote (my paraphrase), you will not only be immune to getting hurt, you will also be eventually immune to getting the love and care you need.

Here’s why it’s important not to completely close yourself off to others:

  1. When you open yourself to others and are vulnerable, people will more likely accept and respect the true you.–Especially nowadays, when there are many fakes and wannabes, being authentic is a breath of fresh air to most people.  Being open to not only your triumphs and accomplishments but also your failure makes you more believable–and dare I say, more human. Also, if you are open and honest with yourself, people are more likely to respect your boldness and genuineness.
  2. Connected to the first point, when you are willing to be vulnerable with others, it gives others a chance to open up too.–I used to be so afraid of being “found out” and rejected, that I hid parts of myself. When I began to open up to others (Yes, I understand we shouldn’t tell your life story to strangers or to people you don’t trust or know well, but we should be able to trust at least one other person!), sometimes other people will also open up to you and you will find the comforting feeling that you are not alone in your struggles or experiences.  It is a feeling of solidarity to be able to say to another, “Me too!”
  3. When you open yourself up to others, it allows you and the other person or persons to learn from one another.–When we open up about our experiences and struggles, we are able to better understand others.  For instance, if you relate to a good friend that you struggle with X problem, you may learn that your friend struggles with the same problem, or struggled before and has already overcome it, in which case, you can learn how to overcome your problem better from your friend.  If you don’t share anything at all, you also don’t learn anything from anyone. When we stop learning, I found that life loses meaning and purpose. Don’t fall into that trap.
  4. When you open up yourself to others, you are allowing yourself to receive love and help from others.–Yes, opening yourself up does require some humility, but it is worth it.  For instance, there are people at my job that I initially had some problems with, but when I humbled myself and tried to open up to them and  learn more about them in genuine love and care for them, I found that these people actually were more willing to help me understand them better and developed a good measure of care for me in return. This does not always happen with everyone, of course, but we all can learn at least one thing from another person, even if we don’t like or get along with them.  Also, when you open up yourself to someone, he or she can understand and relate to you better than if you keep everything bottled up inside and secret.
  5. When you close yourself to others, your heart will become callous and uncaring.–I have seen and heard about people who have put up so many barriers to others, that they became hateful towards others and despondent and callous.  Some of them no longer care about the needs of others because they have become so focused on hiding everything, that they forget about everything else. People who harbor deep prejudices often are near or at this point. They have so much anger and hatred inside and have barriers so high, that they no longer care about anything or anyone other than themselves.  This is a very sad state to be in, indeed.

Objections to being vulnerable–answered:

  1. If I become vulnerable, someone will hurt or take advantage of me.–Yes, this can and does happen, but we must not let our fears dictate our lives. The alternative to not being vulnerable and not getting hurt is often worse than the hurt one can try so hard to avoid in the first place. Instead of taking the risk of having someone hurt us, we become hard and calloused and so hurt ourselves worse than the hurts we are fearing. Also, suffering and hurt is a fact of life on this side of the dirt.  I know. I hate it too, but the suffering you experience from another person is often (or at least can be) temporary. The price of being “irredeemable” and “dark,”  as C.S Lewis mentions, is not worth the price of avoiding hurt and pain from another person.
  2. Being vulnerable is only for the weak--So. not. true.  Being vulnerable and being willing to risk one’s reputation for the sake of authenticity and openness takes quite the emotional energy to do.  It takes a lot of strength. For instance, when someone is willing to risk their friendships by admitting a struggle or a personality defect, he or she is not only being strong but courageous in the face of possible fire, so to speak, as well. Being prideful and appearing perfect when you’re not is actually more of a sign of weakness than being vulnerable.
  3. If I am willing to be vulnerable, especially with my problems, my reputation will be ruined.–Well, it could be, but let me ask you this? Would you rather go through life being “liked” for a fake version of you, and thus no one knows or likes the real you, or would you rather be hated but feel free to be who you really are?  I would prefer the latter myself because I don’t do fake.  Also, most likely your reputation may only be slightly ruined–by those people who now see you in a negative light, but who were never really confidants in the first place–, but enhanced by those who will be your true blue friends and who will really love and care for you unconditionally. I think the latter group is the best kind of friends anyway.

So, to be loved is to be vulnerable. It may be very scary for some (or many) people, but love is always worth it.  I have been so much with so many people and thus have learned a lot from them about love. What I have learned from most everyone is that truly loving them requires some measure of vulnerability. May we all be fearless and free to be who we were meant to be, with no barriers to love.

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The Beauty of Imperfection

I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be right, and everything to be in its right place. So, yesterday when a manager told me that I had done my job wrong, I felt really bad about myself. Granted, it wasn’t that manager’s fault, and they were really nice about it, but it was that I was so focused on making everything just right, I had almost missed learning from my mistakes and looking at the positive aspects of being human.  Yes, I believe there is a time for utopia, but not in this life! Yes, I believe we should always try our best, and strive for excellence. However, even so, we will make mistakes! I believe there is still beauty in that. Here’s why:

1.) Mistakes give us motivation to constantly learn about things and improve ourselves.–This is why we go to school and/or strive to have jobs.  This is also why even if we aren’t in school or have a job, we can still learn things by reading books and communicating with others. If we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to learn anything!  Also, if we already knew everything, why should we want to learn anything more or grow?  However, since we do make mistakes constantly, we can have the motivation we need to do better because it is human nature to want to correct that which isn’t right in our lives, whether morally or pragmatically. For instance, if I made a mistake in straightening items at work, which I sometimes do, I could make sure the items are straightened in the right places next time and really neater than before.  If I never made any mistakes, I wouldn’t have much motivation to improve at my job.  I would probably just do my job mechanically, like a machine, and wouldn’t find much joy in that.  Morally, if I sinned (i.e. made a moral mistake) by slandering someone I don’t like (just an example, I rarely if ever do this to people), and this person found out, got really upset, and severed ties with me, this would give me the motivation and the wake-up call I need to be kinder in the way I approach people and in what I say to and about others.

2.)Making mistakes give us a glimpse of God’s and other people’s grace and mercy towards us.–When we make an honest mistake, we are usually met with some grace and mercy. For instance, when I had done my job badly yesterday, although I was really harsh and unforgiving towards myself, the manager that confronted me treated me with patience, grace, and compassion.  If I had never made the mistakes I did at my job yesterday, I would never have seen my manager’s grace and patience towards me. Also, when I sin against people and against God, as long as I admit that I made a mistake, am willing to own up to it, and make the proper amends, God and people are 95% of the time very gracious and forgiving towards me.  If I never sinned and if I was perfect in every way, never making a single mistake, I would probably never see either God’s or other people’s mercy extended towards me for my wrongdoings.  In seeing grace and/or mercy extended towards ourselves, we are probably more likely to extend it towards others as well.  We can thus relate better to our fellow humans better.

3.) Mistakes teach us how to humble ourselves.–When we make a mistake, we have basically two choices when we are confronted with them by someone else. a.) Be defensive, deny wrongdoing, and/or make excuses for our mistakes. OR b.) admit our mistakes and correct and better them the next time.  I hope I choose b) more often than not, because admitting and learning from our mistakes, is the pathway to humility. Humility is very important for many reasons I won’t get deep into right now since I already had discussed that in a previous post. However, one reason humility is important is that it teaches you to be genuine–to be who you really are inside, warts and all.  Mistakes confront you with the choice to be genuine by exposing a part of you that makes you human–being flawed!  You can try to hide it (be fake) or be open and honest about it (being genuine).  I believe mistakes–moral and otherwise–are tools that are used in your lives to teach us not to be too arrogant or closed-minded towards people or things.

This is why mistakes can be very beneficial in our lives. Since I am a perfectionist, in this post, I am also writing to myself, as much as I am to you, the readers.  Mistakes, besides being a part of learning, also helps us experience mercy and grace, and teaches us how to humble ourselves. So, don’t worry if you make an honest mistake. Just try to learn from it, and do better next time. You may find that is the beauty of imperfection!

What have mistakes taught you?  Please feel free to comment.

The Pain of Rejection (and How to Deal)

Unloved. Unwanted. Never good enough. Have you ever felt this way? If you are human, you most certainly have for at least one time in your life. Many of you have experienced rejection many, many times, even by the ones who are or were supposed to love us the most. Personally (for I can only really 100% speak for myself), I have experienced on and off rejection since the tender age of two, by people at a daycare center.  That is why, unless I feel that a person has rejected me in some way, I will most likely never reject them because I know personally the pain of not being or feeling loved by another.

I am reading the book, Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst, which deals with this very issue, and I will be referencing (and putting references to her credit where it is due) some of her ideas on how to deal with rejection, as well as some of my own. (Shameless plug: For more info on how you can get her book, please visit amazon or iTunes. They should have it there. )

Tips on how to deal with rejection (from a biblical perspective):

1.) Be genuine.—Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. The old adage, “It’s better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for someone you are not.” rings true here. People will and DO eventually find out “who you really are” no matter how hard we try to hide our true selves. It’s because God consistently cracks our masks we wear in public, so to expose the Truth of who we really are. If you are genuine, and are rejected you will be only rejected once (even though I know and acknowledge this may be really painful for most). But if you are fake and are acknowledged, your true self would be rejected twice. Once when others embrace the false self and the other time when they find out your deception and find out who you really are.

2.) See that in the rejection God may be protecting you from something even worse happening to you or may be preparing you for something better (ref to : TerKeurst, Uninvited, 133-34)

This actually happened to me while I was searching for my current job. I had an interview at a place where I really wanted to work, but unfortunately I found out quickly that I really wasn’t a good fit for the company or the place. I was a bit disappointed and thought I wouldn’t find a good job, even though I did well at my previous job.  However, one day I called my current job’s place to see if there was an update on the status of my resume and they called me in for an interview that very day.  God, through several people, graciously provided that job for me. And at this job, God has provided many opportunities not only to advance my career, but also to minister to many people there, both customers and employees. Had I been accepted at the other place, I may have been laid off now (the place was not that big), or fired, and had less opportunities to minister to other people.

Hard as it is, we need to see that in the rejection, God may be preparing you for something or someone better or protecting us from a bad fate, or both! We need to look to the future and not in our past failures or rejections

3. Don’t put your whole identity in the person or persons that rejected you

If the situation is a person or persons that rejected you, especially if it is someone you admire, love, or respect, this may be very difficult.  However, in order to heal from the rejection, we need to separate what the person thinks of us from who we really are. In TerKeurst’s words, we need to “stop the spiral by replacing the labels” (TerKeurst, Uninvited, 131). For instance, if your mother or father rejected you in some way, it does not mean that you are “unlovable” or a “reject” to everyone else in the world. It may feel that way sometimes, but feelings don’t always necessitate truth! Instead, for instance, you may seek the help of God or a therapist to help you believe positive qualities about yourself so that you don’t have to live in shame or fear of further rejection by other people. Also, what I have learned from my experiences with rejection, is that not everyone will like or love you, and that sometimes you cannot get others to like or love you. While it’s frustrating, it doesn’t mean that you will be rejected by everyone. Even if you somehow were, as long as you don’t reject Him, God will never reject you! You don’t have to “try” harder to get someone to like or love you. Just be yourself and continually try to improve who you already are to glorify God and become a better person, not to become popular. But haven’t we all worked harder to get liked or loved sometimes? I know, it’s difficult, because we all want to be loved and that’s a natural human desire, but don’t let rejection define you.

4.) If possible, don’t reject other people.

Audrey Hepburn, the actress, wisely stated, ” People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”  It’s understandable and may even be necessary to reject people who are abusive or a danger to your physical or mental health, so I don’t mean that. However, be careful not to reject someone just because they have a disability, are a certain race or class, religion, look a certain way, identify with a certain gender or sexuality, or don’t think the way you do. Also, never reject someone just because they’re hurting. If you don’ t know how to comfort or console them, a.) try your best  or  b.) Make sure you find someone else (i.e…a qualified professional or another person) that can.  When we reject the vulnerable, weak, or marginalized members of our society, what we are saying with our actions is that we won’t help Jesus, and when we become weak, vulnerable, or marginalized, it may be that others will remember our rejections of other like people, and in turn think we deserve to be rejected, and reject our cries for help. Not only that, but if we don’t repent (i.e…continue to reject the marginalized), we will face ultimate rejection from God Himself. This is illustrated in Matt 25:45-46, when Jesus says, ” Then he [God] will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV-emphasis mine).

How to be Genuine

This is a kind of a “Part 2” of a post I already did called, “Taking off our masks.”

Many people long to be known for who they truly are AND be loved and accepted for who they truly are. Some people are people-pleasers who strive to do or say anything (or almost anything) in order to be accepted or loved.  It is sad, when, despite everything they have done, people STILL won’t love or accept them, OR they accept a fake version of them, discarding the real, flesh-and-bone person in the process.  The good news is that we don’t have to strive to be accepted or loved if we know how to be genuine, even if not everyone on the planet even likes  or gives a care about us.

Barriers to being genuine:

1.) A society, institution, and/or individual who doesn’t allow for emodiversity, which is the abundance of emotions, both positive and negative being allowed to be expressed.

For instance, at work, associates are often not allowed or are strongly discouraged from crying, because it’s deemed “unprofessional” and “unbecoming.” But, according to the December 2016 edition of Reader’s Digest, a study done by researchers Oliver John of UC Berkeley and James Gross of Stanford University, found that bus drivers who suppressed their anger or sadness, had their anger or sadness intensify (i.e…worsen)! (Marsh, Readers Digest, 45) That is probably because they were unconsciously feeling guilty and uncomfortable because of not being able to be genuine enough to express the reality of how they were really feeling. An online friend of mine aptly described crying as “the peeing of the heart.”  Imagine, if at work or school, you weren’t allowed to use the bathroom because it was deemed “inappropriate” or “unprofessional.” It would be a mess!  Maybe if we allowed for more emodiversity, including crying or sadness at work and school, then I think we would solve half our interpersonal or personal emotional issues right there. I’m not saying, cry in such a way that it interrupts the teachers, students, clientele, and/or other associates. But maybe if we were to have a designated safe place where people could cry or get upset without fear of retaliation or hurting themselves or others, much like smokers now have a designated area where they can smoke, that would work MUCH better than not allowing people to cry at all!

To add to that, often we are forced by societal institutions, even religious  institutions, to “put a smile on our face” even if we don’t feel happy. I’ve heard numerous times (I don’t know how many) said to me things to the effect of “Put a smile on your face,” and “Don’t worry. Be happy,” when I was actually feeling depressed and/or angry.  Needless to say, that advice didn’t really help me at all! Research has shown that when we are forced to feel happy (or fake-happy), our actual moods actually became worse!  Many times in the sales or helping professions or even in religious institutions, we are told that smiling makes others happy, but if it is forced or fake, who does it really help when our actual moods deteriorate anyway?

Being able to be emodiverse , according to already-existing research gathered by Jason Marsh in Yes! Magazine published by Reader’s Digest in December 2016, is consistently linked to lower depression and had a healthier lifestyle than those who didn’t. (Marsh, Readers Digest, 48).

2.) Lying or being dishonest with who we are as a person.

That means exaggerating our accomplishments or just straight out telling people things that are not true about ourselves.  People may then have an inflated (or deflated-depending on the lie we may tell) sense of who we are, but they will never have the chance to accept and love the real you, and you will never have the chance to improve yourself, a lose-lose situation for both of you.

3.) Being arrogant

Along with lying, as sign of ingenuity, I have found, is being arrogant and/or displaying behaviors and words that make it seem that you think you are better than everyone (or almost everyone) else. I believe, with the exception of God, no one is perfect, and making it seem like you are, is a sign of being dis-genuine. For example, when someone confronts you about something you did wrong, rather than apologizing, admitting, and/or repenting of that error, you get upset and blame him or her instead. Also, when someone compliments you making it seem like somehow you “deserve” it more than everyone else.Connected to this, another way we are dis-genuine is feeling entitled to certain things that are really privileges. For instance, telling your boss that you deserve a raise and demanding it when you have done little to earn it, or even if you have done enough demanding it anyway, instead of telling him or her nicely that you want a raise.

4.)Trying to hide our flaws and/or perceived issues from others

When we try to compensate or hide things from people, we not only get a sense of inadequacy (from people being fooled into think we are better than we really are), but we are not being genuine either.  But when we are emodiverse and open about our mistakes and issues to others,  I have found often that it then frees others to open up and talk about their issues and flaws, because when we are open about our own shortcomings, we are in effect saying to them that it is safe for them to open up and that we will most likely (I hope.) that we will listen and empathize with them without judgement or retribution.

To summarize: How to be genuine

1.) Be emodiverse and allow others the same.  That is, allow yourself and others to express their emotions openly and without fear of reprisal or retribution.  That, however, does NOT mean that you allow yourself or others to get away with acting abusive in any way, whether it be emotional, verbal, physical, sexual or in any other way. But that does mean you allow people to cry if they need to or allow them to express anger or other so-called negative emotions, so as long as they are not hurting or trying to hurt themselves or others.

2.) Being honest with who we are a person.

3.) Being humble. That means never demanding more than we honestly think we deserve. That also means admitting our flaws and imperfections and accepting and loving others despite them.

4.) Being open about our issues and flaws with others. That does not mean you have to share everything with everyone; after all, that may not be wise. However, that does mean trusting at least a few people with our issues and flaws, and asking for help to change and solve these issues and flaws.  It also means that we are open to others telling us about their flaws and emphatically listening to them.

Being genuine may be difficult and costly, but at least I have found that it is well worth it because not only is genuineness a valued asset in our day, but it is also rare and beautiful.

Taking off our masks

We all do it to some extent. It may be to impress someone. It may be as a social more. It may be to hide our pain and hurts.

We put on a mask.

And to some extent, it is encouraged by those around us and even by society as a whole. At least in my experience I’ve been told by people to “Stop crying.” when I felt sad, ignored and/or slighted when I’ve tried to reveal painful truths about myself, and even mocked by a few people when they found out aspects of the “Real” me that they had felt uncomfortable with or ashamed of. And my (our) natural reaction to all this?

Hide. The lie pervades in our minds that says: Hide who you really are, and you’ll never, ever get hurt again. Hide and no one will ever know the truth about who you really are (until you die of course). Hide, and maybe people will like us better. Hide, and we will be truly loved.

The problem with this is the person we portray when we operate in hiding is a lie. No one will ever see the real you, yes, but instead of making people really love or like us, we increasingly isolate from them. Also, since the Creator hates masks, He orchestrates events in our lives to make it so that our real selves WILL be exposed little by little.

Also, if you want to be truly loved, you must be genuine; you must be vulnerable to having your heart break. C.S. Lewis, the great Christian author once said in his book The Four Loves,  “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I see so much pain in the world around me. So many people hiding, waiting to be found out, but also scared to death of what the reaction may be if someone else finds out who they really are inside.

The solution? God’s solution to all this? Be genuine yourself, and reward honesty and genuineness. Don’t invalidate people when they are speaking from the heart about something painful, private, or personal. Ways we invalidate people are telling them not to “feel” something, as if all of us could just switch our feelings on and off at will in an instant, mocking them or dismissing what they are telling us as “irrelevant” or “not something to be upset or otherwise feel negatively about.” Tell them instead that you are there for them, to help and support them in whatever way they need and in whatever capacity you can help them. Be willing to love and accept the person, flaws and all. However, if sin (moral wrong) is involved, gently steer them in the right direction so they can make necessary amends and/or restitution for their wrong(s).  Thank them for giving you the privilege of sharing such information. If they are willing to share something deep with you, it means they have a lot of trust in you. Don’t ruin it!