Courage: The Strength of the Vulnerable Heart

The vulnerable heart learns when and how to trust instead of being defensive and closed. There are levels of trust we have with different people. We are created to be in connection with each other and warned of the danger of not being in relationships, especially for Believers.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (Ecc. 4:9-10 NLT).

Our neighbor John was given a small sequoia tree in a pot. It was in the family of the giant redwoods that live hundreds and thousands of years. As John finished planting it, he leaned on his shovel and with a small sigh explained that it could not live very long. It was the only one. It was alone.

Because of the sequoias natural resistance to disease and even fire, their greatest risk is falling. Sequoias interlock their roots with each other to stabilize their massive weight and height. They give strength and they receive strength. They become vulnerable to each other. If one giant falls, it could tear the roots of those with which it is connected. But, together the risk is small.

John’s little giant grew rapidly. In a matter of months, it was over ten feet tall with beautifully balanced branches. I hoped it would link its roots to some nearby mature trees. But John was right, it eventually couldn’t make it alone.

When we think of being vulnerable to each other, most of us remember when we trusted someone and they hurt us. Maybe we navigated well through that painful experience, but it happened again. Maybe several times. We folded our arms over our hearts and began building walls of defense.

It takes courage to open up to connection again; it also takes forgiveness and wisdom. These three work together. Courage says, “let’s try again.” Forgiveness frees us to do so. Wisdom guards vulnerability. Vulnerability is not naivety, which is gullible with no boundaries or wisdom.

Being vulnerable is the willingness to allow another person into your heart, recognizing that relationships can get messy, but they are worth the risk. It understands that forgiveness heals and makes true connections stronger. It loves.

C. S. Lewis captured this beautifully:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly 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.” 1

That’s the strength of love.

1 “To love at all”: Lewis, C. S. (1991). The four loves. San Diego: Harcourt Books. First published in 1960 by Harcourt, Brace.