When I was a child, I would become injured. Whether it was a sporting accident, tripping over my own feet, or a recent fight, the results were always the same.
In my hurt, I would become angry. Instead of letting out my feelings and expressing my pain, I would bottle them up. The habit of avoiding what I felt became the game I would play over and over. I had made a life out of running from my feelings.
In recent years, my thoughts have changed. My need to run stopped. Instead of running, I started to explore why I ran. Understanding what caused me to run and why it kept me running for all those years became my focus.
It was time to stop the games and start to mature.
To be a leader worth following, the running needed to stop. If I hoped to be a husband worth loving and a father worth looking up to, I could no longer distance myself. The excuses and faulty reasoning had to stop.
I am not sure about you, but I had allowed my past to define me. There were high levels of interaction with low levels of connecting. Fun replaced substance and depth. My humor became a sword, and my sarcasm became a shield. Anger was my army.
The fear of being vulnerable creates men who run from meaningful relationships.
As a child, how often were you told that boys don’t cry? What was your relationship like with your father? Was he present? Was it superficial? Did you have a deep emotional connection where you talked about how you felt? Or, was the extent of your relationship with your father focused on activity over emotion?
When I was a child, my father was absent. What I do remember of him is unpleasant. I remember the scars that left. The depth of pain I experienced from his actions left me emotionally bankrupt. His abandonment and rejection taught me how to abandon myself and others emotionally.
When I was afraid to be vulnerable, my relationships suffered.
The time for a change has come. When men are vulnerable, we permit other people to enter into the secret places of our lives. If I planned to change and become healthier, I knew vulnerability had to be present. The time to stop hiding behind the visage of strength and start showing authenticity is now.
Move on from what was.
We cannot change the past, but we can confront it, learning to live with what we can’t control. We can set our minds on things in front of us and not behind from this day forward.
The purpose of your past is to inform your decisions and not to make them for you. It is the difference between traveling to a place and deciding to live there. When I travel, I go, experience, learn, and enjoy the place. I do not intend to make that place home. That is how we should treat our past. We recognize the need to visit it, but we shun the opportunity to make a home there.
Live in what is.
Living in the moment feels too simple, yet people still find it challenging to do. Instead of being present in the moment, there is a pull to live in our memories. There is a pull to hide from real connection. The pain of the past fuels our present, and so, we hide from vulnerability. There is a need to isolate ourselves from hurt. Thus, in our isolation and fear of vulnerability, loneliness creeps in.
In that loneliness, there is a propensity to lash out if people get close. It is as if our fight-or-flight mechanism hit the gas pedal. Instead of leaning in, we lean away. People shouldn’t have to pay for the trauma and mistakes of our yesterdays.
We can avoid that by being present in the moment. Healthy relationships take time and effort. Learning to be in the now can greatly increase your willingness to become vulnerable.
We can live in the moment by celebrating victories instead of pushing to the next thing. As men and leaders, there is a tendency to complete a task and then push into the next one. Instead of pushing into the next thing, start taking a moment to experience what is happening. When I learn to celebrate the moment, I learn to connect to what is in front of me.
As your ability to live in the moment grows, it grounds you. In a house, for the electricity to work properly, it must be grounded. If the electricity isn’t grounded, it will cause a fire. The same is true in our lives. If we continually build a life with no grounding, we will soon find ourselves burning out.
By learning to ground ourselves in the present, we can then look to the future. This is where we can start looking at what will be while living in what is. The past doesn’t have to hold us back—the present can build our joy, and the future can give us hope.
Look at what will be.
The future is a window of possibilities. It is an anchor point of hope. No matter what we are going through, we can look into tomorrow and find something to keep fighting for.
As men, we can envision a day when we can let our guard down, where we can be vulnerable. We can envision a day where our relationships have become healthy, and we no longer feel alone.
Looking towards that day is something that can drive us to be healthier. A man who is afraid to be vulnerable is a man who isn’t connected. He may interact, but he is not connected on the deeper levels. His relationships suffer—the feelings of loneliness increase. There is a temptation to live in the superficial instead of diving deeper. Running and hiding is much more appealing than being real.
Yet, when I look to the future, I can see a day where that all changes.
Vulnerability is a key ingredient of healthy life with people. Healthy relationships are where men have struggled the most. Authentic friendship can be hard for us. We long to feel the connection but often feel the fear of it. Saying yes to being vulnerable is about putting your needs first. It confirms a man’s desire for supportive and responsive people who care for us.
To do that, we must look at what is and detach from what was. We need to ground ourselves in what is and look to what will be.
It is from these places where we will find the courage to take the risk. This is where we find the courage to be vulnerable, build healthy relationships, and live beyond the boundaries of what we imagined possible for ourselves and others.
Now is the time to leave our fear behind.
Now is the time to come out of hiding.
Now it is the time to lead.
Where have you found that you struggle with vulnerability, and what steps will you take to change it?
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