BOOK REVIEW: Vulnerability
What do you think of when you think of being vulnerable? Chance are, it isn’t anything positive. In the world’s eyes, being vulnerable is equated with being weak, inferior, undesirable. Brad Hambrick starts his book, Vulnerability, by admitting that vulnerability can be seen as something painful or dangerous. We’ve learned to hide ourselves from others. To show people only what we want them to see. Hambrick states right at the beginning of his little book that heaven will be a place of complete vulnerability, “we will be known completely, unable and not wanting to hide anything.”
Even though the book is only 32 pages, reading a book on Vulnerability isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll face some things in this book that could be hard for you to think about let alone accept. The majority of us, pastors included, are carrying around a significant amount of emotional wounds from our past. Who hasn’t had someone bully them or use personal information to shame or harm them? This is especially true for pastors. We and our families live in a fishbowl. Everything we do gets amplified. Members are constantly expecting us to be perfect. For our children to be perfect, for our spouse to be a super cook, musician, parent and sabbath school leader.
So why have I chosen to write a review on a book about vulnerability? It is kind of a long story for which I’ll write a post in the near future. For now, just now that I’ve come to realize that the churches I know have a big problem. They aren’t living up to their potential. To what we read in the book of Acts. To being welcoming and loving places for broken people to gather. A safe place for anyone who is hurting or discouraged or failing in life to come to and be brought closer to Jesus and loved on. Bottom line, God’s love is missing. Vulnerability is an important stepping stone on the journey towards true love. Towards being known by God and by those we love. Learning to drop our masks, becoming comfortable with our brokenness. God isn’t impressed with our natural talents. He isn’t impressed with our intelligence. He isn’t even impressed with our natural efforts at religion. Paul in Romans sums it up well…
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12
Brad Hambrick uses the Beatitudes as the framework for his book. He states, “vulnerability is necessary in order to receive love. In the same way that oxygen is necessary for fire, I must let you know me before I can believe that you love me.” In both Undergrad and Seminary I was warned by a number of my professors that a pastor can never be friends with their own members. That there must be a separation between clergy and laity. I know now where this idea comes from. It comes from a place of hurt and betrayal. It is from Dan Allender in his book Leading with a Limp that I learned that betrayal is a fact of life for a leader. It isn’t a matter of if a leader will be betrayed. It is simply a matter of when. Once we have been hurt by people we trusted and our intimate secrets have been betrayed to others, we determine never to put ourselves in that kind of situation again. We erect walls around our heart, exactly the opposite of vulnerability. Hambrick offers a more comprehensive definition of Vulnerability as such:
“Vulnerability is the willingness to take the risk of allowing any event, belief, preference, interest, or emotion of your life to be “on the table” when it is useful to glorify God by encouraging a fellow believer, allowing a fellow believer to encourage you, or evangelizing an unbeliever. It is this disposition that breathes the life of authenticity into relationships and allows them to be mutually enjoyable, enriching, and character-shaping.”
The author does point out that he isn’t advocating a ‘vomiting’ of one’s life on every available listener. He is instead suggesting that ‘my protection’ is removed as a reason for nondisclosure before a conversation begins. He also rightly points out that vulnerability is risky. We are giving up control of potentially embarassing information. This is risky because sometimes, people will betray our confidence and may even twist our words to make us say things that we never said. We aren’t to share with everyone without limit.
As Hambrick points out, the nature of our relationship with a person will guide the level of disclosure we allow. As he points out however, “to the degree that we hold back parts of our person from someone, we will limit our ability to be or feel loved by that person.” Disclosure should be motivated by the nature of our relationship rather than by fear. The author goes on to point out that vulnerability is healthy only when it is engaged in for the glory of God. To glorify God by encouraging a believer or by serving as a bridge to a gospel conversation with an unbeliever (usually by revealing some aspect of your need for Christ).
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: If you find yourself having a hard time developing deep relationships, this book will help. If you are having a hard time loving your enemy or the iritating and difficult member, this book will help. Do you naturally distrust others? Not comfortable sharing your hurts or fears even with those closest to you? Chances are, if this describes you, you are also having a hard time being honest with God. As the Apostle John once wrote in 1 John 4:20 “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” If we are to love our brother we must enter into relationship with him. If we are to love we must also be willing to receive love. To receive love we must be willing to be authentic and real. To be authentic we must learn how to be vulnerable.
“It is impossible to be vulnerable while insisting on winning or complete fairness… In a fallen world, where redemption exists, truth and justice will not always ‘win’ in the way that we think of winning.”