The Wisdom of Vulnerability

by Mark Votava


As a man, I have not really understood the role of a masculine vulnerability most of my life.  I have thought that vulnerability is too feminine and uncomfortable.  There is too much risk involved to be open with my weaknesses and struggles with others.  How can I be a “man” in this North American culture while showing others that I am not always strong and secure in myself?

•  Vulnerability connects us together

We limit ourselves when we choose not to be vulnerable.  We can only go so far in life without it.  Vulnerability reveals the pain that connects us all as human and alive, while it stimulates the imagination to new heights.

•  Following in the way of vulnerability

“Without vulnerability,” Paul R. Decker writes, “the experience of God, life, and others will be very limited …”  If all we want or think we need is a limited experience of God, then we disengage ourselves from any sort of vulnerability.  The body of Christ needs to be vulnerable if it is to follow in the way of truth.

•  The truth of vulnerability

There is no truth to our lives without vulnerability.  There is no truth to our relationships without vulnerability.  There is no truth to our relationship with God without vulnerability.  Vulnerability needs to live deep within our faith in the parish.

•  Complete vulnerability is the message of the gospel

Without vulnerability we should not speak another word.  “St. Francis of Assisi,” Paula Huston notes, “probably the most beloved saint who ever lived… believed that this experience of complete vulnerability was the central message of the Gospels …”  Many of us have been taught that certainty is a more powerful witness to the gospel than vulnerability, but St. Francis thought otherwise.

•  An authentic vulnerability

Can you imagine what would happen to our relationships if we lived into an authentic and humble mutual vulnerability?  It would revolutionize our relationships in everyday life together in all kinds of ways.  It would cultivate the communal imagination.

•  Men need to learn from women about vulnerability

Women are usually good at living into vulnerability in their relationships.  But men are usually not so good at it.  Men usually express less humility than women do.  Women usually thrive on relationships of vulnerability.

•  Embracing a more feminine-type wisdom

Men usually thrive on what they’ve accomplished than they do their relationships.  Maybe God is calling us to a more feminine-type wisdom in the parish with vulnerability in our relationships being the central message.  Isn’t it interesting how the Book of Proverbs refers to wisdom in the feminine?

•  Wisdom is calling out to us

“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?  On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand …” (Proverbs 8:1-2).  We need to embrace a spirituality of vulnerability that has a more feminine-type wisdom underlying it.

Why is vulnerability so difficult for us to embody in everyday life together?