The Issue of Vulnerability

by Anonymous

The word vulnerability has different meanings to different people. In recent years the idea of being vulnerable is becoming popular in some churches. It speaks of becoming overtly trusting, brutally honest, and having a wide open heart whereas you share your deepest feelings with other people in your group. This idea of being vulnerable requires transparency, talking about one's insecurities, shortcomings and sins. In addressing these issues, they seek to obtain deeper levels of healing.

On the surface this appears to be healthy. But there is a flip-side.

In a church where vulnerability is encouraged, there is potential for it to become a gauge to measure one's level of spiritual maturity. If a person is very 'vulnerable' then they are included and promoted above others who choose not to be. People who choose not to be vulnerable remain on the outer and become branded with a label such as 'independent', 'rebellious', 'unrelational', etc. Therefore the more vulnerable you are, the more chance you will be promoted. In this unhealthy environment your good behaviour (by being vulnerable) will be rewarded and naughty behaviour (by being not vulnerable) will be addressed and dealt with.

The concept of vulnerability opens the door for spiritual abuse. This can potentially happen when people open their hearts and then discover their deep heart issues have been discussed with other people, particularly leaders. Some unhealthy churches subtly use the idea of being vulnerable as a means to control their people. The information they have gathered from an open hearted person is sometimes used against them. Information gathering and reporting it to leaders is wrong and leads to a lack of trust amongst the people. It is a serious breach of confidentiality.

It has in some cases been admitted by leaders that gathering information about people from dobbers is a way they can minister more effectively to the people concerned. This is not the real reason. It's so they can more effectively control and manipulate the people.

Vulnerable people are easy to control.

I have witnessed the fallout from the pressure to be vulnerable, and it's not pretty. People are being wounded and betrayed by those they once trusted.

Therefore we need to address this idea sensitively and carefully. No one should ever feel forced into being vulnerable. People should only ever open their hearts when they feel safe. With vulnerability comes trust - and sadly, trustworthy people are few and far between.

I may be swimming against the current here, but I do not endorse the word 'vulnerable' at all and will not be promoting it - ever. You might wonder why. Let me explain.

The definition of vulnerability is: 'Susceptible to physical or emotional injury, susceptible to attack, susceptible to harm, to be at risk, an easy target to be harmed, having a weakened defense against something, the capacity to be wounded, open to censure or criticism, the capacity to suffer harm and react adversely, adversely affected by a hazard, to have your guard completely down, the degree to which a person suffers harm due to stress, feeling of being exposed to emotional hurt, being taken advantage of, or abused, feeling of being fragile, weak, or susceptible to emotional pain and suffering, opening of oneself to the possibility of being taken advantage of by another person in a relationship, relating of your innermost feelings and fears to others with the possibility that they might use such feelings and fears against you, liable to succumb to persuasion or temptation.'

Vulnerability is a cyber-security term that refers to a flaw in a system that can leave it open to attack. Vulnerability may also refer to any type of weakness in a computer system itself, in a set of procedures, or in anything that leaves information security exposed to a threat. In the business world, vulnerability is the degree to which people, property, resources, systems, and cultural, economic, environmental, and social activity is susceptible to harm, degradation, or destruction on being exposed to a hostile agent or factor.

The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23 (ISV) Above everything else guard your heart, because from it flow the springs of life. This is speaking of having an emotional buffer zone around your heart. The idea of having personal boundaries is important.

I personally believe we need to 'guard our hearts' as the Scriptures say. We should NEVER place ourselves in a position where we become susceptible to degradation, physical or emotional injury, or to be at risk. We should never become an easy target to be harmed, nor should we have a weakened defense against something. We don't need to open our hearts to be wounded, nor to receive censure or criticism. God knows we have enough of that without it coming from the church. It's not safe to have your guard completely down.

I've even heard it preached that self-protection is a sin. Self-protection ought to be encouraged NOT discouraged. We have every right to protect ourselves. In Ephesians chapter 6 we read about the 'armour of God' of which we are encouraged to wear. The 'breastplate of righteousness' which speaks of having a form of protection around our hearts. This has nothing to do with our good deeds, or decent behaviour - it is about being clad in the righteousness of God, which is a gift freely given to us (Romans 5:17).

We should NEVER be exposed to being hurt or wounded emotionally. We must NOT open ourselves to being taken advantage of or abused in any way, shape or form. No one ever should feel compelled to relate their innermost feelings and fears to others.

If we are completely vulnerable we become open to being walked-over, manipulated and controlled.

This writing is the copyright of the original author and is reprinted on this site by permission.

Page added January 22, 2015


August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2015 by Lois E. Gibson
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