Dear reader, I borrowed vulnerability from Brené Brown. During my recent contemplation her vulnerability message has become important for my spiritual life. I urge everybody to understand vulnerability better.
Vulnerability is not a weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.
– Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 4
The opposite of vulnerability would be a protective shield that goes up if we are concerned we might get hurt. When I think about this shield I am reminded of Star Trek and the force-field that surrounds the vessel when there is a “Red Alert.”
I am also reminded of the words in the Deutero-Pauline epistle Ephesians:
Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
– Ephesians 6:14-16
There you have it; take your shield of faith to quench all the flaming darts. I would be remiss if I didn’t explain that I have been on both sides of this shield. To my shame I have used this shield to tell others just how wrong they were, and I have struggled to be heard when others used this shield to tell me just how wrong I was. This utter lack of vulnerability impedes our salvation.
If you understand this passage in Ephesians as just defending one’s faith, you are not alone. We have seen the One Body of Christ fiercely divided, so much so that groups will do things to hurt us all if it helps advance their own religious agenda. I am sure this is nothing new but in my lifetime this “shield of faith” is a growing concern to living side-by-side with our neighbors. When does defending our faith become more important than vulnerability?
In my world of traditional Catholic experience there are those who are telling us that we don’t have to tolerate other faiths or even the faith expressed by the current Vatican. We are told that our traditionalist Catholic faith must win and all others must lose.
Traditionalist Catholics, with this mindset, are opposed to even tolerating diversity. Their’s is the primary definition of the Catholic Church. Anyone who is critical of their beliefs is labeled an enemy of Catholicism (heretic).
Many Catholics are drawn to this mindset because it is attractive. It is seen as correcting past wrongs and taking Catholicism back for Catholics. However, only under the narrow definition of “Catholics” as rich, cisgender, and male dominant.
These are examples when defending faith is more important than vulnerability.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are saying to me that I am a hypocrite. You are saying that I am not on the ultimate path because I have chosen. You will say that I have labeled a group within the One Body of Christ and consider them (Catholic traditionalists) as “other.” You are saying that this is not vulnerability, but my own “shield of faith.”
The Holy Spirit has helped me to recognize my weaknesses. I am not perfect. This is a daily struggle and through my contemplative prayer I have recognized many of the criticisms that may be leveled against me. Feel free to add to the list. This blog allows comments.
Here is the vulnerability; I have been hurt by traditionalist Catholics. I desperately desire to find fault, lash out and inflict payback on the people who hurt me. I am human, after all.
[emotions] …prick us, they cause discomfort or even pain. After a while, the mere anticipation of these feelings can trigger a sense of intolerable vulnerability: We know it is coming. For many of us, the first response is not to lean in to the discomfort and feel our way through, but to make it go away.
-Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 63
I will leave you with this; my first response is not to lean in to the discomfort. I require the Holy Spirit to help me to lean in. I continue to engage and love my traditionalist Catholic neighbor, even though I know discomfort is coming. This is vulnerability.
May the Holy Spirit give you the strength to remove your “shield of faith” and replace it with the vulnerability of faith.