Vulnerability, Love and Acceptance

I’ve always been a proponent of vulnerability. I see it as a key for relational growth, as I believe when people take risks in sharing their real self with others in relationships, magic happens. Not the kind that sparkles with pretty lights, but the kind that is meaningful, healing, and hopeful. I walked into this situation knowing some things and fearing many others. I knew I was going to be on a team with people with very different life stories. I knew that I would be spending a significant amount of time with these people, and I knew that we would not see eye to eye on everything. What I hadn’t realized before coming here was that all of my moments of vulnerability involving more than one other person at a time have been in the context of Christian groups where people largely share the same background as me. This year will not be lived within the safety of a Christian community, and to me, that is scary.

From my research of this city and he initial impressions I formed, I knew that there would be many people with very different political, moral, and religious ideologies. I was afraid that I would be rejected for holding a more conservative stance in a liberal city. I don’t normally say much in groups larger than three, but I have been especially and intentionally quiet this week. My lack of tattoos and piercings, in addition to my natural hair color and clothing are all indicators that I’m seeking to blend in more than make a statement but I have been careful to protect information about myself besides basic factual history about where I lived before moving here. I didn’t realize it until today, but the apprehension I felt over that has weighed on me for the week as I have asked myself, “If they knew X about me, would they accept me?” When I was younger, I believed the lie that people did not and could not like me. I scoffed when my grandmother told me she thought I would find good friends when I moved away to college. But I did find good friends there, and when I moved and continued my studies elsewhere. And now, I need friends here.

On our team today, we spent a lot of time talking about the “Anti-Oppression” movement. Out of everyone on our team, I think that I have one of the most privileged backgrounds. Normally I’m really happy that I had a pretty stable home life as a kid, with two loving parents, and traditional values that made sense for the world around me. Here and now there seem to be many people who have rejected and deeply questioned what I hold dear and I don’t want them to treat me the same way. I was blown away today as I heard the people whose rejection I feared talking about how they want to love people regardless of where they are at, regardless of where they are from. They talked about how they make a huge effort to hear what people are saying and to respect their back story and beliefs, even if they disagree with them. I felt more safe in this group, hearing that line repeatedly, than I have felt with many other Christians. Sure, we talk about loving others and we go through the motions, but I think we still harbor little prejudices and doubts in our hearts. We might say we love others, but we hold something back. We turn prayer request sessions into gossip about others’ struggles. Worse yet, we don’t even fake caring about the hurt and the pain in the world that we are called to help heal.

I am going to try to be vulnerable because I know its worth it. I think there is a lot to learn from all of the different people around me this year. I have resolved to get to know people as the individuals they are, regardless of what they believe, because we are all here working together to accomplish the greater goal of making the world a better place. This means I will be friends with people who identify themselves as gay and lesbian, the undeserved minorities, the poor and maybe the homeless. Not only will I be friends with them, I will invest in them, try to make them feel safe, and accepted. I will try to remember that love triumphs all, and believe in the power of all of us loving each other, and allowing each of us to express who we are even with all of our differences.