Vulnerability in the Age of Online Oversharing
At 12 years old, I can assure you it was not my plan to have a meltdown in front of a handful of my seventh-grade classmates, some of whom I didn’t know very well.
I was attending an informal, after-school support group for pre-teens, and during the meeting, I decided to talk about my parents’ marriage, which was falling apart. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I could barely speak. But I eventually got the words out, wiped my nose, and readied myself for the reaction.
To my relief, everyone was staring at me in compassionate shock, and not too far below the surface, I noticed there was a part of me that liked it. My vulnerability was powerful.
Throw Yourself Down
Vulnerability isn’t nearly as risky as it used to be. Where the previous generation kept uncomfortable things under wraps, these days, people let it all hang out in status updates, tweets, and blog posts. And in personal conversations, we can pretty much say anything in the name of “processing.”
There’s nothing wrong with vulnerability per se. It can actually be a great gift to those who find solace and hope in knowing they aren’t alone. But there’s a dark side to vulnerability, like when we only do it to get attention, use an audience for catharsis, or demonize someone who has injured us.
It reminds me of an excerpt from the famous conversation between Jesus and Satan, in which the devil “took [Jesus] to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, jump off!’ (Matthew 4:5-6). Satan assures Jesus that Father God will catch Him on His way down.
Satan is essentially tempting Jesus to make Himself vulnerable in a spectacular way, one that will ensure the maximum amount of attention as He plummets down. But Satan includes an additional appeal: “Don’t worry. God is going to bless it.” And if Jesus had taken the bait, there would have been no salvation for us. In the greatest tragedy of all time, there would’ve been no cross, the place where Jesus experienced pure, godly vulnerability for the sake of His Father and the whole world.
Questions We Should Ask Ourselves
It’s tempting to throw ourselves down in front of other people and feel great about it on our way down, which is why, before we make ourselves vulnerable, we should ask a couple of questions: What purpose does this story serve? More importantly, whom does it serve?
If our words are little more than self-serving oversharing, they will draw attention to us, to our injuries, to our unresolved issues. We’ll be using our audience by transferring our baggage to them. We’ll tell a story in which we leave ourselves hanging on the cross with no hope for victory. But if we use our story to serve Jesus and others, it will direct people upward to the One who came out of the grave and brought us out with Him (Romans 6:5-6; Galatians 2:20).
That doesn’t mean Christians have to fake happy endings to stories that aren’t resolved yet. But those stories should draw people to Him who is bigger than our wounds: Jesus, who bore our injuries but rose again in a glorious body, despite the fact that it remains scarred (John 20:24-29).