Uploaded by Chino Chikelu

Chukwunonye Chikelu on The Importance of Vulnerability

The Importance of Vulnerability
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy,
accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper
and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path (Brown, as cited in
Havorlson, 2018, para. 2).
What gets in the way of people being vulnerable?
Growing up as a boy in the streets of Onitsha, South-Eastern Nigeria, it was a taboo
among my peers to find you shed tears. Crying was an act of weakness. You had to show
strength in your ability to suppress or withhold tears; and even in the face of great danger
what mattered was one’s invulnerability. Listening to Brene Brown’s TED refreshed me. It
took me down memory lane to relive moments that embracing my vulnerability would have
saved me—giving me the avenue to connect more to myself and the people around me.
Young (n.d.) opines that ‘We’ve made ourselves ‘strong’. We’ve toughened up,
hardened up and protected ourselves from being hurt. We’ve protected ourselves from
vulnerability and disallowed the surrender. Here’s the problem. When we close down our
vulnerability we are shielded from hurt, but we are also shielded from love, intimacy and
connection. They come to us through the same door. When we close it to one, we close it to
all (para. 3).’ There are so many things that stand in between us and exploring and utilising
the positives of our vulnerability. Some of them are highlighted below.
Upbringing and Cultural Influences
The ways people are brought up contribute enormously to their perception of what
vulnerability entails. My own childhood experiences point to a different thing. This is
somewhat gender specific as my being a boy I was groomed to perceive vulnerability as
weakness and nothing more. As a grown up I still find it bemusing that I have never had an
honest heart to heart talk with my father. It is a serious as it gets because in my family we
don’t openly confess love. So it is not quite surprising that as a teacher I find it a little
awkward when some parents in my school publicly display affection to their kids; saying ‘I
love you’ and the rest. My upbringing was strict and even though my parents provided for my
needs there was still a whole lot of room left gaping: the need for more bonding and
Societal Constructs
The society plays its own role. Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart portrays a lot
about the archetypal Igbo society and its definition of maleness. The Igbo society frowns at
weakness and its potentialities especially for the male child. So as a man you are supposed to
be a pillar of strength and stoicism. You are supposed to bear pain and complain little. The
society expects so much from you and the little details like love, connection are completely
left out. As a means of surviving the harsh and dissonant realities of living in a competitive
society, people see guarding themselves against vulnerability as a self-preservation strategy.
Havorlson (2018) points out that ‘To be vulnerable means to be at risk of experiencing harm
(para. 1)’ and people instinctively run away from harm. We simply forget as stated in the
prompt above that vulnerability births love, connection and other beautiful things of life.
Vulnerability and Diversity
Being vulnerable can help us as individuals to be more accepting of diversity and its
attendant frictions and challenges. This is essential because it is very difficult to connect with
people who share little or no cultural affinity with us. It is even more challenging for a
teacher practicing in a socio-culturally diverse learning environment. Encouraging
vulnerability in a school environment helps create a healthy culture of diversity where
students invite and welcome their differences. According to Garten (2017) ‘this is a culture
where people explore their differences (curiosity), can welcome different views than their
own (vulnerability), feel invited to be different (make a difference) and clearly express their
differences (clear communication) (para. 2).’
Also, as a teacher allowing for vulnerability in my classroom will help me understand
my students’ needs on a deeper level. It creates the opportunity for my students to feel free to
communicate their needs, fears, interests; and to also see me as a friend and confidante.
More than anything, I cherish that I have learnt from this unit that being vulnerable is
a necessity. This will be crucial in my dealings with my neighbours, students and colleagues.
To be more willing to connect with others I have to be vulnerable. I have to be able to
ventilate my thoughts, to ask questions and most importantly to show empathy. In the end
what is important is how we are able to connect; give out love unconditionally even though
there are no assurances.
Garten, F. (2007). Diversity at Work: Vulnerability (2). https://frankgarten.nl/diversity-workvulnerability-2/
Havorlson, O. (2018). The Importance of Being Vulnerable.