Years ago when I was blogging anonymously about same-sex attraction and other personal struggles, I coined my own term for the “real life” people who knew everything — my “Deep Dark Secret Club,” I called it. Or DDS Club, for short. Now working with kids in wilderness therapy, I recently rediscovered what I thought was my acronym right there in my staff manual. It described a “DDS group” to have with the kids where they’d reveal some deep dark secret from their lives, spawning further vulnerability in the group.

Funny how that works — not my employer stealing my acronym, but that whole bit of vulnerability begetting vulnerability.

The art of vulnerability remains a bizarre paradox I don’t fully understand. The reason we even have our deep dark secrets is to keep others at bay — either set in a clean friendship box or locked away altogether. We grow so convinced of our grossness, our depravity, and our utter unappealingness to humanity. Or at least, that’s how I’ve always felt.

How could sharing my deep dark secrets possibly draw people deeper into a relationship with me?

And yet, time and again, my vulnerability has begotten further vulnerability from another. I share about my struggles with gay pornography; he shares about straight pornography. I open up my mountains of self-doubt; she discloses her own insecurities. Our stories connect further, and the shadowy pages seem less sinister.

It’s like we enter a fourth dimension for our friendship, learning things we never knew before, seeing each other anew not through odious eyes but understanding ones.

That’s not to say vulnerability will always be some magical cure for our guilt and shame. Clearly, there are people we should not include in our Deep Dark Secret Clubs. We need wisdom and good judgment with others — because once it comes out, we can never take it back.

The stakes are huge with vulnerability. What’s done is done; what’s said cannot be unsaid.

I’ll be honest here — sometimes, my vulnerability has backfired. Not in the moment. I can’t think of a time where my vulnerability was met with outright rejection. Over the years, I’ve been blessed by family and friends alike who have heard me, asked questions, prayed with me, prayed over me, and otherwise passed the entrance exam to my Deep Dark Secret Club with flying colors.

But with the art of vulnerability comes the art of relationship-building. Writing a book and on this blog seems to have made me a self-proclaimed expert at the former, while the latter remains an ongoing challenge.

It’s one thing to confess some deep dark secret in the soil; it’s another to tend this secret garden for weeks, months, years afterward.

Weeds form.

Drought comes.

Relationships take work. Unbearable work.

Several members of my Deep Dark Secret Club aren’t even my friends anymore. It kinda breaks my heart.

If you’d have told me at the time of my vulnerability that one day I’d no longer be friends with Person A or Person B, I don’t know that I’d have initiated them into my esteemed Club in the first place.

Why waste each other’s time?

Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer that nothing is wasted in this life. I’m grateful to have crossed those relational bridges with them. We may not be friends anymore, but they helped me get here. And I’d like to think I also helped them reach some higher relational plateau in their own lives.

I hope their Deep Dark Secret Clubs grow larger by the year.

I hope I continue reaching out to others despite the inherent risk that comes with love and relationships.

I hope humanity’s collective vulnerability continues to beget beautiful vulnerability.

Who’s in your Deep Dark Secret Club? Have you ever had an experience in vulnerability backfire? What’s keeping you going, or what’s holding you back?

* Photo courtesy alles-banane, Creative Commons.

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