The Paradox of Vulnerability

“…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.” Audre Lorde

This quote drives me crazy as I have yet to tap into the ways in which vulnerability has made me strong.

There were many times in my life that I felt that I was more vulnerable than I would prefer. In hindsight, the vulnerability was in my mind, and most of it was due to choices that I had made. I am currently very vulnerable, and not something that I did to myself. But this isn’t about me…

God says when we clothe another, feed another, visit another in jail or in hospitals, administer to the least of His, we are doing it unto Him. And if we do it begrudgingly, it is almost worse than not doing it. Without having ever been in a truly vulnerable position, it is difficult to understand what it feels like. I have never liked allowing others to do for me because it has often been thrown in my face. Or I would put my needs out there only to have them ignored or denied. It is sad that this is the attitude we take with each other. Everything that we have and what we are is a gift from God to begin with…our time, our talents, our money, our means. So to do for one another while keeping record, throwing in each other’s faces, or doing it begrudgingly cancels out any goodwill we may have created.

“If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” J.K Rowling
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely  no good.”  Samuel Johnson

“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” Hubert H. Humphrey

How we treat those who are truly vulnerable says much about ourselves. One could argue that is the reason we are here, to administer to one another, to make the plight of others a little easier. A dear friend of mine reminded me that helping others is a gift and a privilege for those who are helping. We could all benefit to stop and think before extending our hand to another. The greatest gift is to help in a way which allows the one receiving help to maintain their dignity. You can do this by refraining from rubbing it in someone’s face, not keeping score, helping before being asked (as most people hate to ask for help), going the extra mile…and to view the other party as who they are, not what circumstance they may be in.

Something that I have been guilty of is hesitating, or assuming that the person is surrounded by love, attention, help, encouragement or prayer. I missed out on the blessing of being a blessing. We see a homeless person on the street and assume that an army of people after us will be the blessing to this person. Maybe God had intended for us to be this blessing for this person. What if they needed to know someone saw them, cared for and valued them, what if we were their lifeline? Not only did we fail to impact their life, but we failed to have our life impacted.

This struggle that I have been through has been far darker than I could ever have imagined. I in no way am sharing this for sympathy, only to provide an example of what others may be going through, to challenge you to look for opportunities to be there for each other. You would think when you go through something so horrific that you would be met with compassion, love, understanding and encouragement. While I have at times received an outpouring of these things from so many via facebook and texts, calls, etc, there has for the most part been the opposite.

In a few cases, even my closest of friends have walked away because they did not feel I had given them enough rather than having compassion that I did not have anything to give. I have often gone without eating when I was alone because I did not have the strength or energy to cook for myself, or the means to fill the fridge, I have hurt myself trying to clean the house in a wheelchair. I have laid face down in my bed crying my eyes out doing everything I could to convince myself that this too shall pass. I have known the deepest level of loneliness…one where you cry out the hollowest, saddest sound that you do not even recognize it as your own. Again, I do not share this for sympathy. It is very difficult to show myself in such a vulnerable light, but I have hope that doing so will help others in similar situations to know they are not alone, or to provoke others to reach out and show up for each other. I would NEVER do anything to harm myself, but I have known that kind of loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness and desperation, and it scares me for those who maybe do not have the strength, faith or self love that I do.

Often it is the strongest who need help the most because they will show a brave face, and have the hardest time reaching out for help. It strengthens us to be a strength to another. And please do not pass the buck expecting others to come along…for all you know, you may be the last in line.

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