Vulnerability and Strength | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Vulnerability and Strength

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It takes more than flowers to create a good, lasting relationship.

To love is to care deeply enough about an idea to see it come into being, whether that idea is a romance with another person, writing a novel or starting a business. Love sparks your desire to learn all you can about that someone or something. It is what keeps us engaged during difficult times. Love can lead to disappointments and joys. It requires two oppositional forces in a person: the vulnerability of openness and the protection of strength.

Vulnerability and strength are two sides of one coin, and each requires courage. From vulnerability comes strength if approached with an honest, open conscience, a clear heart, and the resolve to persevere through disappointments and successes. An authentic, lasting relationship that has give and take is built from honesty, trust and support. To be honest requires a certain amount of showing your soft underbelly, to test if you and your ideas will be supported. Will you click with this person? Is there viability in this notion, this business or personal relationship?

Human instinct tells us to shelter, to protect the tender parts of ourselves from harm. Protecting ourselves from harmful intentions is wise. This instinct can also be a roadblock to fully embracing the possibilities within the world. Readiness to share (a part of oneself, a piece of writing or a new skill) is vital, and hesitation to do so is natural. But an ungrounded or unproductive fear that perpetually keeps you in a state of "as soon as," "if only" or "yes, but" leaves little room for love. Ask yourself: Is this fear real, or is it an idea worth exploring and testing? Can you build enough trust in yourself, in the other person or in the situation to imagine an idea coming into being?

Trust, of course, comes over time when you consistently (in most cases, incrementally) expose your soft side without incurring harm. Like tempering steel or hardening off plants to toughen them up, you're made of strong stuff when tested, provided that the testing comes with the intention of cultivating something more, something sincere and honest. When this happens, it is more likely that no attribute, opportunity or skill is wasted, overlooked or underutilized. All parties involved grow as a result. These bona fide relationships are strong foundations upon which we can build sustaining lives. They provide a foundation for us to be brave enough to make the most of rich qualities with which we have been endowed. From this, community is fostered, and we create possibilities to support the greater good for all parties.

Love drives you to mastery. You work to learn everything about that person or to know all the nuances of a particular job. You put in the hours, no matter how many are needed to fully know, because you are prompted to remain engaged long enough to experiment, take risks and learn.

Love disappoints when nothing seems to go right between you and your sweetheart or when a project seems to drag on forever. Love can create a chasm between vision and reality. Inevitably, what you end up with is a "failure" compared to your idealized original vision. But that is not a bad thing, because we cannot have what is unattainable in reality.

However, if you remain loyal to a good idea or nurturing relationship, you create something that is sustaining and nearly has a life force of its own. Love also pulls you through hard times, especially when the lure of a shiny new idea beckons.

Love provides for reconciliation. Staying focused on the intrinsic rewards of your relationship or your work gives you the ability to stay motivated for the means of your efforts rather than by the ends. When you love, you continually find ways to re-engage despite the distance between your impossible heady visions that come with infatuation and the reality of loving.

Love is brave. Take, for example, this anecdote about a client of mine. She received a thank-you gift, a generous gift certificate to a spa, for her years of service on a board. She appreciated the thoughtful gift, but she simply does not enjoy spas. Instead of being disappointed and resentful, she saw it as an opportunity. "People need to know me better, and I need to allow that (to happen). I am going to be more authentic to let people know me and really get to know others. Yes, I am risking exposure to criticism, but the reward more than outweighs the risk of criticism. The joy you miss by not doing this is great."

Now she trusts herself enough to be open and love more, wisely.

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