Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Surprising Nature of Vulnerability and Community

Recently a dear family friend taught me a lesson about community that I cannot stop thinking about. He said that if you do not utilize your community when you need them, then they will not feel like you depend upon them and eventually the community will disappear. As someone who has spent my moments of crisis attempting to summon a brave face, find a smile, and pretend I'm okay, these words completely changed my perception. 

So down the rabbit hole of reflection I've been sent again...

I have always thought that I was being considerate of others and that I was somehow being a good friend by not being needy, burdensome, or asking for help.  It never occurred to me that the exact opposite was actually true. I had not realized that each time I put on a brave face, each time I said I was fine, each time I didn't pick up the phone and reach out- that in a small way I was sending a message to my friends and family that I didn't need them, didn't trust them, or that they weren't close enough for me to reach out. This was not the message I would ever want to send the people I love and respect.

Then I began to think of all the times I've known friends who are in a rough place- all the times I've tried to reach out and been met with an "I'm okay"; "It's fine"; "I'll be okay" brave face... from friends I love and know.  How many times have friends of mine or people I love stubbornly been considerate and tried not to burden others?

So here is the surprise-  I know my friends and family love me and if I need them they will be there, but I rarely reach out and ask for help. And I have a hunch I am not alone.  But rather than this being somehow noble, brave, or compassionate for those we love- it is actually destructive to our community. Not picking up the phone and calling a friend when I am feeling bummed out, not asking a friend to meet for coffee when I am sad about something, not reaching out - all of this unties the binds that are meant to give us unity and to form community.  

The surprise to me is that it is our vulnerability that connects us. In this journey to live more authentically as the person I am, I once again discover that we build trust, friendship, community and happiness in our lives by taking the risk of sharing our lives, our stories, ourselves.


  1. I know this is just another way of saying that reciprocity is the heart of community!

  2. We actually damage our relationships and our community when we try to not burden, to protect, or to be overly considerate of our friends and family. Can someone out there help me remember to reach out?!?!?

  3. Sometimes, "Keeping the Peace" seems like the best thing to do. I spent most of my life hiding the fact that I was gay from my family because I was afraid I would lose them. That way didn't work either. The result was that I don't have a relationship with any of them. When I lost my Mother, I lost my last real familial connection.
    Unfortunately I developed a life-long habit of NOT reaching out. Now I'm middle-aged and essentially alone except for those exceptional people who belong to my family of choice. In that, I am totally blessed

  4. Demosthenes- I am so sorry to hear what you have been through and I too have often felt a pull to as you said "keep the peace". It often seems like if we are who the world wants us to be, or thinks we should be, that we will find love and acceptance. My own journey keeps teaching me again and again how very incorrect that is and how that never really works. Thank you for your post and I am so happy to know that you have found a beautiful family of choice- may you continue to reach out to them for love and support to keep building the community you deserve!