“To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh).
TO BE VULNERABLE IS TO BE SUSCEPTIBLE TO INJURY, AND THAT DOES NOT SOUND LIKE A GOOD THING. The word “vulnerable” has a negative, and even fearful, connotation to us, as every insurance salesman knows full well. But think more carefully about our vulnerability. Is it really something we should try to escape?
The fact is, we are vulnerable in many ways, and there is no use pretending otherwise. And there is no use trying to protect ourselves from every conceivable loss or injury. There are just too many possibilities. Try as we may, we can never achieve perfect safety in this world. So if we’re going to have any peace of mind, it will have to be by some means other than playing it safe in every situation.
In most people’s lives, a certain stage of maturity has to be reached before they are willing to accept their vulnerability and not be afraid of it. But what a liberating experience when we reach that point! The “willingness to remain vulnerable,” as Lindbergh puts it, is one of the finest fruits of thoughtful and honest living. It is quite a relief when we quit making the effort to be strong — and to appear to be strong — in every circumstance. Having moved beyond the need for constant safety, we are free to work on more productive projects.
Sadly, some of us never get to that point. We remain bogged down in futile efforts to protect ourselves from any possible hurt, and we have no higher goal in any endeavor than to do what is safe. But while wisdom prompts us to take reasonable precautions (only a fool “throws caution to the wind”), it is not wisdom that makes us obsess over safety. Safety is a value, certainly, but it is not the ultimate value.
In matters of the heart, above all, we must accept our vulnerability. Real love is always attended by the possibility of being hurt. Indeed, love carries with it the probability of being hurt, since there is no one we may love in this world whom we will not have to say goodbye to. But should we protect ourselves by avoiding love? No, down that path lies nothing but death. Love is a chance well worth taking.
“Vulnerability, attachment, uprooting, tenderness, interest, anxiety, expectation, anguish — all these are nothing else but love” (Louis Evely).