From the Board: March 2023

Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme. The theme for March is Vulnerability . This month’s post is offered by Betty Hartnett. 

“Vulnerability isn’t good or bad; it’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living”  (quote from Brene Brown).

In my research regarding vulnerability I have learned that Rene Brown is the leading expert on vulnerability. She is a professor at the University of Houston. In her personal life she has struggled with vulnerability, shame, even addiction. She came to believe through her research and personal experiences that vulnerability is not weakness,
but is strength. In her Ted Talk regarding vulnerability, she said the following: “Vulnerability is not weakness. I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives. And I’ve come to the belief… that vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage—to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest.”

As I’m writing this, I have the Oscars in the background. I have always assumed that actresses and actors have had to go through many episodes of vulnerability as each role played would challenge them to be a different person than they really were. Too, the playwrights most likely have had to feel vulnerable as they presented their work to be
scrutinized and validated over and over, first by the acting world and then by the viewing world. Whatever vulnerability they maybe felt was most likely conquered or contained by or through their work, their creation. “To create is to make something that has never existed before. There’s nothing more vulnerable than that” (Brene Brown).

When I was young, I loved to sing, but I always felt vulnerable singing solo. Brene Brown says that “this shaky feeling …makes you want to turn around and go home, where you can escape the potential judgement of others ….” (Ted Talk) I never completely conquered my feeling of being vulnerable singing solo though I always got through
each experience. I became brave enough to do it but always had some amount of fear. From this, I learned to be brave enough to function in situations that were challenging, and that made me somewhat fearful. I think it was part of the reason I was the first and only child in my family of seven to go to college, though I had no more innate academic potential than my siblings. I knew, even though I was afraid to some extent, that I could work through it.
Now, as I’ve grown old, I look back and see that this has helped me to do things I wanted to do in my life – learn to ski, write, golf, complete an MA and an MS, teach, and etc. I even dare say that my vulnerability has made me a better person in that it has fostered empathy for others who may be struggling.

Betty Hartnett
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees

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