About a month ago a close friend of mine was going to speak at her church service about learning to allow others to help you in time of need, and she asked me to share my experience of learning to be vulnerable. I never intended to post my response to her on the internet, but after reading it again I’ve decided it won’t hurt. Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.
You’ve asked me to write about my experience of learning to let people into my life and allowing them to help me, sooooo here we go.
Growing up it seemed that people were disgustingly unreliable creatures. Friends go against their word, promises are never fulfilled, rumors are spread, and the natural man transforms people into ruthless animals. Some individuals are incredibly strong and don’t allow the hurtful actions of others to affect them, and they forgive and continue trusting in order to build new and lasting relationships. Other people, however, decide to put up their defenses and take extra precautions in who they allow into their heart. I was the latter of the two, so I like many others stitched up my heart and refused to allow anyone in. The only people I trusted to share my true feelings with were my mother and occasionally my best friend. As for my dealings with other people I met, I found what seemed to be the perfect distance to which you should hold people – close enough that you can learn a lot about them and help them in their times of need, but far enough away that they never knew too much about you and would never be given the opportunity to let you down. For it wasn’t backbiting and betrayal that I experienced growing up as much as simply being disappointed by the apathy of others when individuals suffer.
On the surface it seemed that holding people at this “safe” distance saved me from a lot of pain because I never set too high of expectations. As a result, people never disappointed me and I was less affected by their attitudes when they stopped caring. I thought this would lessen the pain, but looking back I think it intensified it in a way I hadn’t expected. I often felt used by others because friends would only come to me when they needed help. After I had helped them, they would disappear and it seemed we were no longer friends until the next crisis came. I felt as if I had no one to rely on and no one to trust, and in my eyes it seemed that the only solution was to turn inward and choose solidarity. I was surrounded by good family and friends yet I never opened up to any of them. I became very good at hiding my emotions from others, faking a smile while deep down I yearned to find someone to trust. Sadly enough, I struggled finding that person because I never gave anyone the chance. I dealt with all problems on my own, and this coping usually meant finding a quiet space to think things through and hurt until the hurt eventually faded away. This had both negative and positive consequences, one of the positive being that I learned how to rely on God instead of people. My relationship with Him was strengthened because He was almost always the first source of comfort I went to. I would be lying if I said I felt a strong “burning in the bosom” or a “flooding feeling of love” come over me every time I spoke with him, but I did often feel a soft calming. I interpreted this as a quiet reassurance that He was always there and would never let me down.
When I left the country to participate in volunteer work for the church, I witnessed the reality of God’s reliability. My fellow companions and I would test God and pray for specific miracles, and I testify that every one of them came true. Not once was I let down by God, and I learned to give my entire being to Him because He would never, ever let me down.
Since coming home, however, God revealed to me the importance of letting others in. As an ancient prophet profoundly stated, God “straightened me with His rod,” and He broke me. I not only hit rock bottom for the first time in my life, but I discovered that rock bottom had a basement! And that basement sucked! I wanted to get out, and I was frustrated and angry at myself that I couldn’t. I was helpless and weak, and for the first time in my life I could not move forward on my own. My method of coping failed me, and I was left with no other option but to reach out to others for help. At first I fought against this with what little zeal and pride I still possessed, but the more I fought the more I fell again, and again, and again, and again. So little by little, I allowed others to see how broken I was, and with all the honesty and passion in my soul I can say that doing so has been the most transforming and life fulfilling thing God has ever taught me.
To begin with, I have learned that allowing others to help you helps them feel needed. Humans want to feel important and valued, and giving them the opportunity to save a fellow traveler brings a sense of worth and importance that comes in no other way than by sincere service.
Secondly, it was transforming because I learned that the Spirit (or intuition, whatever you want to call it) can guide you to know who and who not to trust. When connecting with old friends or meeting new people, the Spirit would prod me to open up to certain individuals, and those individuals helped dig me out of the pit I was in. The Spirit has its gifts of discernment, and I pled desperately that He would help me know who was loving and reliable. I am happy to say the Holy Ghost never let me down in discerning who was genuine.
Lastly, I learned that being vulnerable to others creates miraculous relationships I never could have imagined possible. God has sent me angels, and I will forever treasure these people in my heart because they have showed me how happy life is when you are surrounded by people who truly, deeply know you. I am convinced that investing in relationships is the most important thing you can do to be happy. Life is not to be tackled alone. God does not expect us to live life alone. He desires us to experience these pure relationships and rejoice and suffer together.
Kristen, you know as well as I do that I still struggle a lot in opening up to others and allowing them to help me. This is just one of my “things” that doesn’t come naturally, but you and I have both learned that God is patient. He rejoices at any improvements we make, and He cheers us on as we continue forward. I know I have improved, and although recently I feel like I’ve relapsed and am back to frantically defending my emotions with sword and shield, I will never forget the joy that came from trusting genuine people. When I invest in relationships and let down my walls, God sends me people who can love me, and they change me. I feel closer to others, to God, and my own sense of who I am, and this is what motivates me to keep trying and keep loving.
I love you sis. Hope this helps.