Vulnerability in Friendships
“Are you okay?”
Often, the question comes from our close friends, the ones who can tell something is off just by the look on our face, or the way we are acting. It’s a simple question, but it can lead to many different answers. Some people breathe in relief when asked. Finally, they can tell someone what’s been going on. They don’t have a problem with talking about their struggles. Others avoid the question, shrug it off, and blame it on the stress of school or work.
It can be challenging to decide how to respond to this question. Will you be completely honest and voice all the things you’re dealing with in your life? Or will you brush it off and give a vague response that doesn’t really answer whether you’re doing good or bad? Most of the time, I would choose the latter.
I’ve always been the girl who kept my trials and struggles to myself. I didn’t want to tell anyone what was going on in my life. I had the mindset that my trials were just that, MINE. I would deal with them because they were my responsibility. It’s safe to say, vulnerability was never a strong suit. Do you struggle opening up to someone and sharing your trials or struggles with them? Because I can relate. I thought if I answered honestly, it would only end badly. I didn't want the pity, shame, or worse of all, the indifference because someone else just might not truly care.
Sometimes, allowing someone to see your struggles is viewed as a form of weakness. As a result, we’re afraid to be vulnerable with one another because we don’t want people to look at us differently. How differently would people look at us if they were to find out that we struggle with gossip, showing love, reading our Bible every day, or actually waiting to hear what God’s response is to a question? The truth is, not that differently.
One thing that helps in my lack of vulnerability is to write it all down in a journal (I highly recommend it!). It is a place for you to write out your prayers, worries, fears, questions, praises, anything you want to. I discovered it’s a place where I am able to be completely vulnerable with God. Philippians 4:6, which says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God,” was a constant reminder to be in communication with God. We are able to tell Him anything and everything. And for the longest time I thought journaling was enough to get through whatever I was facing. It had always been enough in the past. But God taught me journaling can’t solve everything.
It wasn’t until last year this perspective changed for me, and trust me, it wasn’t an easy road. It was my sophomore year of college, and while it had many perks, the year was also one of the most challenging times. I was struggling in my relationship with God, and I felt like I had no one to turn to. It was a feeling of being completely and utterly alone. It felt like God was right in front of me, but I was always one step behind and never able to reach Him. I was just numb, and as a result, I kept it to myself even more. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through, and I wanted to figure it out on my own. My roommate asked multiple times if everything was okay, and I told her yes even though it wasn’t.
By not allowing yourself to be vulnerable with others, you are keeping yourself in isolation. You may not be meaning to, but you are separating yourself from your close friends and family—the ones who truly care about you. Eventually, you’ll realize you need support from someone. It may take you breaking down to where you’re crying on your bathroom floor begging God for answers. For me, that was when I realized I needed to be vulnerable with someone. I had to let someone in. So, I went to my roommate and told her everything.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. -John 13:34
It was in that moment that I was completely vulnerable. I was sitting in the dark, with my best friend, pouring out this struggle that consumed me. And she didn’t judge me. She didn’t think I was weak. She didn’t look at me differently. All those fears about vulnerability slowly started to disappear. She was there for me. Just like it says in John 13:34, she showed love. And it was in that moment God showed me how necessary and important it is to be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is an important part of your relationships with others and in your walk with Christ. It allows you to grow closer to your sisters in Christ, which is something God wants from us. Romans 12:5 says, “so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”
The Bible tells us to not judge one another (Matthew 7:1), to lift each other up and encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to work together for God. We should not be afraid of coming to each other for help or encouragement. But please make sure that the person you're opening up to is trustworthy and discreet - if you know someone has a tendency to gossip or exploit weakness, don't give them the ammunition to use your vulnerability to hurt or embarrass you.
Being able to come to someone and ask, “Can I talk to you?” or to say, “This is what I’m going through,” is exactly the kind of relationships we need in our lives. You don’t have to face trials alone. James 5:16 tells us to pray for one another. The support and prayers of a sister in Christ can seriously make all the difference.
God created us to have relationships, and part of relationships is communication, and part of communication is being able to be open and honest.
Yes, being vulnerable is easier said than done. But it is so important—so necessary—in your life. It’s not something you can easily achieve overnight because it takes time. It’s something I still struggle with sometimes. But when I do, I think back to sophomore year and I remember how much it helped to talk about what was going on. God changed my perspective on viewing vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” In an area where we are weak, it is God that gives us strength.
So, the next time someone asks, “Are you okay?” I hope you remember the importance of vulnerability and the importance of relationships with your sisters in Christ. Remember that God loves you, cares about you, and that He will be with you through every season of your life—the good and the bad. I hope you are able to answer that question honestly and as a result of that vulnerability, your trial can be turned into something beautiful. Because sometimes you being vulnerable is the inspiration someone else needs to be vulnerable in return. Be the first to open the door to your heart, and let's welcome each other into a place of vulnerability, compassion, and honesty. That's where love takes root - when it has seen you at your worst and still chooses to stay.