The Crux of Vulnerability and Loving Wholly
Words by Sarah Heffington
This topic has been talked and sung about since the beginning---and yet humanity is still trying to fully understand, communicate, and master this concept of love. From the time I was born I was taught what love meant and since my parents demonstrated such immense care and affection to me, my foundation was solid. Early on, the simple childhood love, whether in relation to friends or family, is more instinctual than a complicated subject to sort out. However, the time arrives where each of us has experienced the transition from that innocent love, to the mature, often difficult choice; to fully expose our heart to another flawed human being, in hopes of connecting and building relationships.
Obviously, no one has a perfect life, and as a kid, I had my share of stresses, struggles, and disappointments. When I was fresh into my teens, this reality of the “consequences” of loving something really affected me. For example, not long after our family sold and moved away from the only home I’d ever had, we tragically lost our dog, who was more of a beloved family member, than a pet. As the tears came, so did the frustration. Why had I ever bothered to invest this much emotion in a being that I knew would inevitably die?! The insightful quote seen in its abridged form on every tote, magnet, tee and fancy calligraphy piece, originated with C.S. Lewis: “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.” Deep down I knew the answer to my question: Love is worth the pain that inevitably will accompany it. A simple realization, but profound, nevertheless.
Though many choices in life are made by measuring cost vs. benefit, that’s not how love was designed to work. Caring for and sharing our heart with those around us should never be based on what we will receive. True love is selfless, loyal, and given to others, not due to them being “worthy”. You’ll recognize the people who really care about you because they show up and support you regardless of your performance, needs, or mood. If their intention is to love without conditions, then be grateful and keep them close. Brené Brown has studied belonging and its challenges, and she wisely notes: “Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.” I’ve learned that my closest connections and deepest relationships exist thanks to vulnerability being a factor. It’s a give and take: if I want my friend to be comfortable enough to bare her soul to me, I, also, must be willing to be transparent with her. Yes, it takes a dose of courage, but it is worth the effort.
There have been many times in the past couple years where I have gotten comments regarding my experience (or lack thereof) on this topic. Comments that allude to the fact that since I have never fallen in love, or even more so, had a heart-wrenching breakup, I haven’t experienced enough to credibly speak on this subject of loving. Though I am well aware that there are countless aspects of love I’m not personally acquainted with, I want to set something straight-- romance isn’t the only keenly felt form of affection or serious soul tie out there. Witnessing a brand new human being brought into the world, being one of the first to look into her bright, curious eyes and immediately sense a connection and attachment so gigantic that your heart almost bursts from joy... that’s as equally life-changing and memorable as a sweet love story. The same goes for tragedy and heartbreak; we each have moments that will always stay with us - when it felt like the world was crashing down and words weren’t able to express our sadness. Just because I’ve never had a guy ditch me, doesn’t mean my heart has never hurt in a similar way.
Details will be varied and stories will have unique twists, but realize that our hearts are made of the same malleable stuff. Let’s be careful not to judge one person’s heart history by comparing it to ours. Hurt and love are always valid, and ought not be measured by how they appear to others. Would you join me in striving for vulnerability in your relationships? Open yourself up to love, no matter the risk, because doing life any other way hinders the connection and belonging that are so vital to thriving.
Sarah is a coffee enthusiast, curious as heck, and can often be found engaging in intellectual conversations over a latte. She is a proud aunt and grew up in south eastern Virginia with 8 siblings. Sarah is also a music and Broadway lover and simply couldn’t exist without that lifeline. As an extrovert, an ideal evening would be spent with friends, ending, of course with The Tonight Show. She’s excited to see where God leads her next, and enjoys all the adventures as they come!