What Happens When You're Vulnerable with the Wrong People

When I was in high school, I shared something personal with one of my closest friends. She knew the circumstances and had been my confidant through a terrible season, until I found out that she had shared my story with someone else. I can still remember the ashy feeling in my mouth, standing in the women's bathroom, listening to a girl repeat my secrets back to me. Needless to say, I didn't recover well. 

I've always believed that vulnerability begets vulnerability in others, but what happens when you're vulnerable with the wrong people? You bare a piece of your soul to someone, and they don't protect it. In that case, vulnerability begets feelings like doubt, betrayal, and withdrawal. Instead of the warmth of safety that you expected, you're left with isolation and distrust. And the worst part is, you usually don't see it coming.

Though it might surprise you, I'm not the type of person to freely express my emotions to others. Oh sure, I can write convincing copy and expose the truths of my struggles in a blog post, but most of that is done post-mortem, after I've cried and processed and unpacked everything. Outside of my husband, who gets my feelings in real time, sharing with people in the midst of the crisis feels excruciating for me, and it's not because I don't want the support. Rather, it's because it requires me to expose the girl who feels like life is spiraling out of her grasp, the one who I spend most of my days pushing below the surface. So, when I find out that my trust has been misplaced, it is unfathomably wounding. 

Vulnerability gone wrong is painful because it forces you to stand on the precipice of change.

Change makes me grit my teeth with discomfort and do everything in my power to escape. When my weaknesses are exposed and my heart is hurting, I don’t pray for the benefit or blessings that I know come alongside anything difficult. I’m quick to pray it away; I don’t pray for a lesson. Fear is easier company.

In her book Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist wrote, “I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts and one of his most useful tools. I’ve learned the hard way that change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and I’ve learned that in many cases, change is not a function of life’s cruelty but instead a function of God’s graciousness.”

There are lessons to be learned from broken trust. Sometimes, we need to be smarter in choosing our relationships or more careful when sharing burdens with people who don't have the emotional intelligence to navigate the struggle. But, more than anything, every account of failed vulnerability in my life has reinforced one truth: keep sharing. 

Keep Sharing because vulnerability is designed to be healing for you, not for your listener. 

If the one you choose to confide in is inspired to act because of your honesty, that's awesome. It's a beautiful thing to encourage someone to share their story. But, regardless of the other person's response, I believe that God desires for us to be vulnerable because it reminds us of our need to be dependent on Him. He is the only listener who can hear us without judgement, encourage without condemning, and love without correcting, but that doesn't mean we should abandon our efforts to connect. Plus, when you do find the people who can shoulder your less-than-perfect admissions, it's life changing. 

The change that occurs as a result of broken trust is unavoidable, but if you’re tempted to pray for easy before you pray for peace, maybe it’s not an escape from your circumstances that you need, but a change of perspective. Vulnerability is never wasted, even if the result is different than you expected.