I write about intimate details of my life all the time. At this point, I’m closing in on 100 unique blog posts in addition to several shared blog posts and podcast episodes.
The seemingly deepest parts of my life are on display for the world to see. I keep only one obvious barrier with you, dear readers, and that is a pseudonym; otherwise, you probably know me better than most people in my life.
And yet there are a few things that I keep close — secret — from those closest to me. Because I am afraid of being vulnerable with them.
I’m not talking about “coming out” — I’m talking about the matters at my very core that influence my actions in ways few could ever imagine. A thought at my core can have repercussions through entire years of actions, decisions, and beliefs.
These few core thoughts — they get hidden away. No one sees them. Not my friends, John and Carver — maybe not even Lisa, my wife.
I will refuse to let these thoughts see the light of day.
I’m sad to admit I am cunning enough, at times, to cover the tracks leading back to these thoughts. Even when I “get real” with my inner circle, I can hold these thoughts closer to my core and place a facade in front of them. No one is the wiser.
Why do I do this?
Have my dearest friends and loved ones done something to garner distrust? Are there any “red flags” keeping me from revealing these thoughts?
Honestly — no.
This is something at my core. A thought gets shuffled around, placed behind walls and boxes, and gets hidden away from everyone. And yet — it might be the most powerful thought of all.
And no one knows what it is. Until recently, that is.
One night, one of my dearest friends and I were hanging out. As I sat next to him, I began to feel one of these core thoughts take control and begin wielding its influence. My friend noticed.
Normally, this is where I’d make up some stuff about what I was really thinking. I wouldn’t lie necessarily. I would say authentic thoughts and ideas — but I wouldn’t be directly honest about my core thoughts.
That night was different though. For one of the few times in my life, I spoke one of those core thoughts out loud.
I shared one of my core thoughts with my friend.
I froze at the words coming out of my own mouth. They sounded otherworldly — and yet the calmness I felt revealed them to be entirely true.
I continued on to talk about this thought, what it was and why it was there. My friend listened patiently. As I finished my brief glimpse behind the curtain, he comforted me. He reminded me I’m not alone and that this thought — however personal to me — is something that many can resonate with.
We said good night shortly after that. It was late, and we both needed sleep.
But I couldn’t help feeling something new, like a lightness in my soul. I fell asleep quickly and rested peacefully.
The next morning, I awoke initially nervous. Did I share too much? Would my friend turn on me after my moment of vulnerability? Was it too personal for our friendship?
I took a risk and shared this fear with him. His chuckled response of reassurance quelled the fears. The lightness had returned, and I got on with my day.
I don’t want this to be a one-time thing. Not with this friend and not with those others who are my closest and dearest loved ones.
I want to be vulnerable. I want to be known. And I want to know others.
Including you, dear readers.
Do you draw any walls of vulnerability in your relationships, even your closest ones? How do you gauge what’s worth sharing and what’s worth hiding?
Loved this on so many different levels!
Thanks so much, MW. 🙂
I’m so curious what that deep raw thought was! But I’m content to let it be a mystery.
Over the summer I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I filter my inner thought life to keep it hidden from the people close to me. Most of what I hide is what I think about people, both the good and the bad. I worry that exposing those thoughts would burden or limit my relationships in some way.
Some things are better left in the moment. But you are a dear friend, so beware of being ambushed by vulnerability. 😉
I understanding the worry about those thoughts being burdening or limiting. I often consider that I encourage people to be completely honest with me without fear of judgment. Yet I don’t follow my own advice. It’s odd how we do that to ourselves — encourage others to do what we won’t do. Praying you find brothers close to you to share those thoughts with without it limiting your relationship.
Being vulnerable with other is hard on so many levels. I too have not been fourth coming with what’s really going on in my life, with those closest to me. I’m an enneagram 3w2 and so the “performer” in me will often come out in these situations. For example, if someone wants me to be “vulnerable” I’ll allow myself to be vulnerable just enough to meet the expectations of my friends and then move on. Pseudo-vulnerability costs me nothing, and it gains me nothing, but real true vulnerability costs humility and the risk of rejection, but has the potential to gain quite a lot. Whether that be a personal or a relational gain. I’ve been learning that sometimes vulnerability is less about what it does for us and more about what it can do for others! I’ve been convicted lately to be open about my story with those close to me…. and sometimes those who are not. I’ve been praying for the holy spirit to give me the strength needed to be vulnerable when He calls me to be!
I relate to this on a deep level. I try, I really do. And I’m getting better in some situations and becoming more hermit-like in others. True balance is super hard. I usually gauge worth sharing/worth hiding by the affect it will have on said relationship or situation. So a meter of how it will affect me basically and that’s not always good.
Ya…there are a handful of things that I refuse to burden most people with. How do I determine that? There is what I call the “Yuck” factor, and generally, this varies from person to person with it’s intensity or nonexistence. I have a female friend. We’ve known each other since we were kids. She goes to my church. She is in the class I teach at church. We do many social activities together and we are in the same small group. The membership of that group is all single/divorced women except for me. I call them The Angels. I should mention that all The Angels, as well as my church knows I’m SSA (gay or whatever). Anyway, I said just casually and maybe the result of one too many beers that they weren’t so much my Angels as they were my fag hags….NOT GOOD. My friend says, “Oh gross” and turned up her nose like she had been smelling socks or blue cheese. Another Angel said she really didn’t wan to talk about ‘my stuff’, but the 3rd Angel laughed and laughed for quite awhile, probably because she had been married to a mostly gay pastor which she had divorced for infidelity. So it’s important to know your audience and what they will tolerate.
I have another small group at church that is all single and divorced guys of varying ages. The rules are completely different. There’s me and another gay guy, two single guys and one divorced guy with 3 kids. I can talk about anything there. Sometimes when I’m whining about something, the group alpha will tell me to stop being such a b****. For me, this is a good sign to pull back a bit. Too much information with certain people does not go well no matter how well they know you.
So know your audience before you spill whatever it…
I still struggle to be vulnerable. I think it’s because I’ve always been seen as the strong one that I don’t want to humanize myself. I’m slowly working to break myself from this thought process though.
I’m in the same boat brother.
Now its time for some fan theories on what you said to your friend! I know what it was, you were saying. I know what it was! You were saying that you actually never really liked Supernatural all that much. But yeah, I relate to what you are talking about here. It can be good to be vulnerable to the world so others feel less alone and can relate to your struggles. On the other hand sometimes there can be some oversharing. Some things that simply are better kept between you and close friends rather than sharing with the world or with multiple different people you meet in real life. Simply stuff we have to figure out on our own.
Oh the walls I’ve put up in my life. Most times it’s for self protection. Other times it’s out of fear. I don’t like being vulnerable with anyone, even those friends that I’ve been close with for over 15 years. Vulnerability can be scary because you never know how the other person will react. Thankfully the times that I have been very vulnerable and open, I have been met with love.
I still struggle with vulnerability too. Part of me is afraid that others won’t like the real me and they will stop liking me when they know the real me.
Thankfully God has given me friends and family who allow me to be me and create safe spaces to be me and to be vulnerable. I rarely take them up on the opportunity to be vulnerable, but the space is there.
It’s something I’m working on with God’s help. And it is flipping hard too! Making myself share what I need to share and let my dark thoughts out into the light of day. And my experience is like yours Dean. They accept it and love me anyway and let me talk if I need to and help me if I need it.
Thanks for sharing Dean 🙂
I’m not great at vulnerability either. I have intense anxiety when I am trying to be vulnerable and real with people (letting them “behind the curtain,” to use your wording). It’s slightly comical as I literally am shaking and sweating just trying to spit the words out. A quote I saw on someone’s instagram bio (OF ALL PLACES LOL) says, “To be 99% known is to be unknown.” This quote has destroyed me and given me a little encouraging shove towards genuine vulnerability.
“The next morning, I awoke initially nervous. Did I share too much? Would my friend turn on me after my moment of vulnerability? Was it too personal for our friendship?”
I have thought these questions so. many. times.
And I think the crazy thing is, that despite all the good I’ve seen come from vulnerability, it is STILL tough for me. Despite the growth it has produced in me, in friendships and in communities I’ve been in, there is still some part of being vulnerable that hinders me at time. Stupid fear…