"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will 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."—C.S. Lewis
Writing and living are related realities. No writer leaves a finished book without being changed by the story that he has written. No person leaves a finished year without being changed by the story that she has lived. But turning a new year into a great memory is like turning a blank page into a readable story. They bring a similar sense of anxiety and hope, calling us out of our natural feelings of fear and shame to the liberating experience of courage and vulnerability.
Writing is an immersive experience. It's immersive because it invites you into the world you are creating, not letting you leave without being changed. It's a quiet habit of observing and a focused pattern of thinking that mysteriously turns scattered thoughts into innovative ideas, creative stories and compelling truth that changes the writer as much as the reader.
In a way, whole-hearted living calls us out of guarded living into a similar kind of immersion into the people, stories and complications of our times, not letting us live without being changed. It's a gradual movement and a necessary shift in thinking that powerfully brings fearful people into deeper relationships and richer experiences, but not without the risk of vulnerability.
Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly says shame is an unspoken epidemic, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide and eating disorders. After six years of researching shame, she came to the shocking conclusion that vulnerability is absolutely key to whole-hearted living.
To write is to reveal yourself to a stranger at the risk of being rejected. To live is to unmask yourself to your neighbours with the hope of being accepted.
They are risky decisions that demand much of yourself. But when the cost of rejection is weighed against the promise of wholeness, the writer seeking purpose and the person searching for life must make the tough choice to be vulnerable instead of the seemingly safer choice of keeping silent.
When you read a book that reveals the scars of a writer, it melts your own inhibitions, invites a secret confession of oneness with the story and brings a kind of healing to your heart. When you meet a person who reveals their wounds, their openness slips past your own defences, invites a public admission of oneness with the person and brings a kind of wholeness to your life.
All writing and whole-hearted living is a risky immersion into the unknown. It's a risk that comes with conflict, crisis and complication but not without the freedom of moving from fear and shame to courage and vulnerability.
When I was twenty-nine, a crisis of purpose, a summer of traveling and a good book led to the radical decision to become a writer. I wrote at the risk of being ridiculed without the fear of being rejected. I wrote with a sense of purpose without a pay-check or a publisher. I began with a private twitter account and told myself that I would tweet five times a day. Not much later, the private tweets turned into public blog posts that turned into published articles that turned into a finished book that turned into the gift of the writing life and a growing sense of purpose. A movement from fear and shame to courage and vulnerability led to the life that I wanted.
Vulnerability is perceived as weakness but Brene Brown’s research says that it is our most accurate measurement of courage. In a shocking show of courage and vulnerability, the Christian story reveals that God became a human being and entered into our shame, experiencing its devastating consequences and liberating us from its hold on our lives.
Perfect loves drives out the fear to be vulnerable and lets you love without fear—all of our friends and even our "enemies."
The best relationships and the best books share a similar sense of vulnerability—giving of ourselves, uncovering our wounds, confessing our hopes, naming our fears and claiming our dreams. As a writer and a person, in word and in relationships, the best hope I can urge for us is to be more alien to shame and more familiar with vulnerability. Though it comes with more distance from comfort, it eagerly promises more oneness with joy. Though it goes against the natural grain of our thinking, it slowly brings us into the richness of whole-hearted living.
Akshay is a guest writer here at IndiAanya, lending us another perspective as a writer and dreamer and husband.