Is it okay for men to be vulnerable ?
That depends on who you ask. Growing up I was told that real men don’t cry or talk about their feelings, let alone to other men. And I believed it for many years. All through high school I worked hard to create a tough exterior to protect myself. I bottled in my emotions because I thought expressing them would equate to weakness.
Crying for example, was simply unacceptable in my peer group. If I did cry, I made sure I did so in private. But eventually it became difficult for me to cry altogether. I refused to cry even if I knew it was only God watching me. The thought of it was embarrassing. But isn’t this the narrative a lot of men? Many of us have bought into these misconstrued ideas of manhood, and they have created an emotional prison for us. But here’s the sober truth that every man needs to hear: it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to cry. Better yet, it’s necessary to fully embrace God’s call to manhood.
Jesus was Vulnerable
Though Jesus was God in bodily form, He was also one hundred percent man. He was the perfect prototype of what God designed a human to look like. He experienced the same feelings and temptations that every human faces. But as a man, He also displayed incredible vulnerability. Let’s look at a couple examples:
“Jesus wept.” – John 11:25. Let that one sink in for a minute. The creator of the universe wept. His dear friend Lazarus had recently passed away, and He mourned alongside Lazarus’ family and friends. Was this seen as weakness? Far from it! Jesus sincerely mourned. He cared deeply for Lazarus and his family and was able to empathize with their pain (even though He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead).
Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane – Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus displayed vulnerability when He asked James, peter, and John to keep watch over him while he prayed. Here’s what he said to them in verse 38: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Jesus not only expressed His feelings to his friends, He also asked them for help. God in the flesh asked imperfect human beings to help Him! A lot of men would rather suffer on their own than admit they need some help. Not so with Jesus, He wasn’t afraid of being vulnerable.
Am I saying that we need to share EVERYTHING with EVERYONE? Of course not. That would be a foolish thing to do. We need to practice prudence and good judgement when it comes to vulnerability. Certain things should remain between a tight circle; other things should remain between loved ones; some things can be shared to a crowd, and then again, certain things should remain between you and God.
It Takes Courage to be Vulnerable
A few weeks ago, I watched a Netflix documentary by Brené Brown called “The Call to Courage,” where she shared about the connection between courage and vulnerability. Brené Brown is a university professor of Social Work and a “Researcher Storyteller.” ( a title she has learned to grow into over the years as she shared in her TED Talk on Vulnerability.)
In the documentary, she was transparent and oozing with passion as she exposed some of the prevailing myths and misconceptions about vulnerability. Brené shares that in vulnerability you’ll always finds 3 things: risk, uncertainty, and exposed emotions.
Then she asked the question: Can you be courageous without risk, uncertainty, and exposed emotions? I’m going to assume you would agree that all three of these things are also present in courage. And that was exactly her point; to be courageous is to be vulnerable, putting yourself out there without knowing the outcome.
Further, she went on to state that vulnerability is the most accurate way to measure courage. I paused the video right after she said that. I had to let it sink in.
To Love is to be Vulnerable
CS. Lewis Quotes:
“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.”
Lewis couldn’t have said it any better: to love is to be vulnerable. One of the most courageous moments of my life was when I said “I love you” to my girlfriend. But here’s the thing: It took me forty five minutes to say those words! I was so nervous that I made three visits to the bathroom to give myself pep talks. And when I finally said it, it didn’t come out the way the way I had imagined it. I felt vulnerable as I waited for her response. I took the risk, and I was uncertain of her response.
The good news?
She said it back to me, whew!! And today, by God’s grace, I’m married to her; but it took a lot of courage to even say those words, let alone living them out. And now being married for almost three years, I see how important it is for me to be vulnerable, to express my emotions, to admit my mistakes, to ask for help, and to allow myself to really be seen for who I am.
In other words, loving someone is more than simply saying “I love you.” To love is to do what’s best for the other person, even when it’s hard. To love is to be vulnerable. Not only is vulnerability necessary to love others, it’s also necessary to receive love from others.
Is it easy to be vulnerable?
Not a chance. In fact, I find it very difficult. But you know what’s even more difficult? When your heart becomes unbreakable, airless, safe, and impenetrable, as Lewis would put it. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that for my life. Although I still have a long way to go, I rest assured that God will continue to help me grow in this area as long as I am willing.
So what are some steps we can take towards becoming more vulnerable as men?
- Prayer. Ask God to work in your heart and to place you in situations where you can learn to become more vulnerable.
- Take small steps. Start expressing your love and gratitude to those you love and cherish. It may feel uncomfortable or sound awkward, but that’s where growth happens.