My mom and I have been enjoying a lot of HGTV lately. Since I caught the DIY bug about a year ago, I started watching the channel more and more for inspiration and just to go “Oooo, pretty house!!!” My mom, who always loved HGTV, found herself swept up into the shows as well. Now we watch a show a few times a week together.
When I watch, I expect creative inspiration, not emotion. My mom is the one who gets emotional. I can’t remember if it was a show or a commercial, but I glanced over at her at one point and she was emotionally touched by whatever it was to the point of nearly crying. Of course I tease her for getting emotional so easy at such a minute thing (out of love). But then she asked me a question that stuck with me: Didn’t that touch you?
I shrugged and told her that yeah, I felt something, but I didn’t cry over TV shows and commercials as easily as I used to.
We went on with our night and I didn’t think about that moment again until I was typing up this post.
Maybe you’re wondering why this moment is so crucial to me. It’s because it highlighted to me what I already knew deep down inside: out of a fear of vulnerability, I’ve toned down my emotions to an extent. Vulnerability is a way of opening your heart to both good and bad emotions. In other words, to be vulnerable is to be open. And yet, as our culture often says, to be vulnerable and open is to be weak. If something rattles you, you need to toughen up. No time to be sad; put on your happy face and keep going. Everyone’s suffering so suck it up, buttercup.
I didn’t realize how destructive this mentality was at first, because to a point, it’s practical. There’s work to be done, so there’s no time to get bogged down. There’s no time to be vulnerable; you need to be strong. When we’re not willing to be vulnerable and open though, there’s a lot that we miss out on. Like love.
C.S. Lewis has a powerful quote on vulnerability and its connection to love:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I’ll be celebrating it as a single woman in my late twenties. I don’t say “celebrate” sarcastically or ironically; I am truly looking forward to Valentine’s Day. Because the day isn’t just about romantic love–it’s love at its entirety. To love God, others, and myself.
To love is to be vulnerable. I think we can all agree that this world needs more love. To truly love, we must open our hearts and let others in. Easier said than done.
And yet as my favorite artist, Sleeping At Last, puts it in his song “Nine,” To know and love ourselves and others well is the most difficult and meaningful work we’ll ever do.
Let’s do the meaningful work. Tomorrow and beyond.