Obviously, I was wrong. I was not fine. Over the next few years, I found myself stuck in the anger phase of grief. I learned cynicism, pessimism, and defeatism. Those traits found their way into my personality. I learned how to argue and to be sure I was right. I became petty and picky and particular. I was not fine.
Fast forward a few years to 2014 when another highly anticipated relationship failed and a few months later I lost my mother very suddenly.
Will’s advice came back to mind. In truth, it never really left. I began seeing a counselor.
This story doesn’t end with puppy dogs and rainbows. It ends with wrongs corrected and a journey begun. My preconceptions about what counseling is were wrong. My assumptions about my own personal stability were wrong. Most prominently, my perceptions that counseling couldn’t help me, wasn’t for me, and was even inappropriate for my situation were all exceedingly wrong.
Counseling can be many things to many people. It can be the avenue back to a healthy marriage. It can be the way out of an addictive behavior. It can be the coping mechanism that holds life together.
For me counseling has been a path towards self-awareness and vulnerability.
Self-awareness, I think, is the easier of the two. It is the practice of observing your own tendencies, propensities, and weaknesses in an attempt to know why and how you do what you do. I need only observe myself and apply what I see to my own history to come to meaningful, helpful conclusions that I can learn from. Difficult, but obtainable.
Vulnerability is sharing those conclusions. Vulnerability is putting all those tendencies and propensities on display. Vulnerability is telling someone just how weak you are and in what specific ways you are weak. Vulnerability is scary, unnatural, and … life-giving.
Brené Brown says it this way: “Vulnerability is not just about fear and grief and disappointment. It’s the birthplace of everything we are hungry for.”
Yet more than anything, vulnerability is a choice. Making that choice is a massive, non-inconsequential event in life.
For me, it’s about choosing to combat my fears and doubts and anxieties by removing them from the dark depths of my soul and illuminating them by giving them names: Fear of not being good enough. The desire to know outcomes before they happen. Anxiety that I’ll be hurt again.
As you read this, you might be thinking of something in your life that you could benefit from being vulnerable about. I certainly am as I write this.
Consider these words from Paul as he discusses his self-described “thorn in the flesh”:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." -2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Boasting in weaknesses? What? That’s vulnerability. That’s life-giving. That’s the birthplace of everything we are hungry for. Extremely difficult, yes. But so very worth the effort.