Comforting Words: Christmas Reflection #5

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Reflection #5

Most of you might have known this and I thought I did too - but to my surprise one of my biggest lessons this year was learning the difference between "weakness" and "vulnerability."

In June, I shared the drama of our move from the North side of town to the South, an experience through which my understanding of vulnerability started to shift.

The real shift, more like a turn, that occurred for me took place as I carried out my professional duties - one which calls me to be with people at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives, such as receiving the news that they have a much shorter time to be here than they thought or at the beside of someone making his/her transition from this Earth plane.

One of my deepest fears was to be considered weak - you know - one of those women who cry for everything, unable to get on with their lives without a man (or woman) at her side or to be needy. During a session with one of my more recent supervisors, she challenged me about that - my understanding of weakness, inviting me to consider that there is a difference between being needy and expressing vulnerability.

As we discussed this, I realized that that has been my challenge - my inability to differentiate between neediness and when someone is being vulnerable and expressing it. I understood the big picture meaning of vulnerability but did not get the finer undertones to the word.

When you watch the news, for example, the word vulnerable is usual equivalent to some notion of weakness. "Our nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks," or "Your computer system may be vulnerable to hackers," are some of the things you see on the news that suggest that vulnerability is not a nice condition to be in and so I resisted.

The mover was the first person to challenge that fear of mine and then my supervisor - God bless them both, because what I have learnt this year is that to be vulnerable is to be alive. Thomas Hardy says it well:

"If all hearts were open and all desires known -- as they would be if people showed their souls -- how many gapings, sighing, clenched fists, knotted brows, broad grins, and red eyes should we see in the market-place!"




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