The recent carnage the well-publicised disciplinary councils have wreaked among women I love and admire saddens, scares and angers me. Some of my closest friends have been afraid to be open and vulnerable with friends they’ve had for years, with women they’ve served with, even with trusted and familiar blogs.  I don’t know much detail about the OW movement and recent events, but I have many dear friends who have struggled with issues this month has dredged up for them – not even touching the ordination topic or discipline measures – such as the repercussions of having bad fathers, criticism from others within the gospel, poor priesthood leadership in individual lives, unrepentant family members, and the ebb and flow of their own faith through crisis, abundance and drought. I know many women who don’t care in the least about the OW-media circus, because they’re literally trying to find money to feed their children, deal with a son’s exposure to porn, wrap their panicked thoughts around upcoming surgery, forgive those who have grievously sinned against them, adjust to their mother being in hospice, and/or because they believe otherwise to the loud. They now feel as if their situation, their feelings and thoughts are not as important – or as worth caring about – as the issues being discussed elsewhere. They don’t care about the latest news, but are scared to say so. So they say nothing, and bleed in the dark.

I’ve haemorrhaged emotionally and spiritually in the dark. It’s not a situation I’d recommend, or ever want to find myself in again. The thought of people I care for feeling that such a place is their only recourse or refuge chills and fevers me. I don’t want to become a toughened, emotionally void bit of gristle believing that anyone who lives or believes or struggles differently than I do isn’t worth my time, my listening, my consideration and conversation. I don’t want to wrap my heart in a box; I want to wrap it around people. If a friend is worried about a sickly, injured, scared or fevered part of their world, I want to know about it, to be a safe place for them to share their aching hearts. I think being honest, being vulnerable with pieces of ourselves, is like cuddling your own newborn self and then letting someone else have a hold. Newborns are delicate, sensitive, messy and precious, no matter what they look like, or what led to their birth. Just like our vulnerabilities, we need love, gentleness and consideration – even when we’re screaming.

As we all learn, our individual history isn’t something we can sluice off at the end of the conversation, or day, or hot mess of disaster. You take some of it (or it takes a mouthful of you) into the next moment, day, year and you either learn to walk with the limp, grow familiar with the scar, or continue bleeding for the rest of your life and drown yourself and those around you in your despair and negativity. Sometimes being able to approach a friend in any medium (text, email, phone call, physically or via cheese/dessert platter) and say “Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?” is the equivalent of a medal of honour, vulnerability and bravery, in the face of rejection, fear and self-doubt.

So in the midst of caution, courage and deliberate vulnerability, what is a good process to follow, a goal to have? In Brene Brown’s incredible TED Talk she suggests:

…to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”

Terrified, yes, but also tenderly, exhilaratingly, obviously open and alive. And for every time anxiety chokes me when I think of reaching out and entrusting someone with a sliver of my own wonky, twitchy heart, and every time I find myself wondering where hermit caves are advertised, I remember CS Lewis wrote:

“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.”

I don’t want to lose my friends, my sisters, to the thought that they are unloved, unwanted, unworthy, or to the feeling that their struggle is any less important than those on front pages and press releases. I don’t necessarily have to be my sister’s keeper, or teacher, or leader or preacher. But I do want to be my sisters’ sister, able and willing to carefully hold and consider whatever precious, wonky, struggling, stubborn or fluttering part of herself she chooses or needs to share.

June 24, 2014

18 Comments

  1. Karen D. Austin

    June 24, 2014

    Yes! This is wonderful. Many recoil from sharing their thoughts and feelings on this (and many other topics) because they fear rejection and criticism. But if we all just put on masks for each other, what does this say about our friendships, our communities of faith? I don’t have easy answers, but I do see a lot of complex emotions all around. May we all emphasize kindness and compassion as we feel our way through.

  2. Melissa Y

    June 24, 2014

    I don’t have words yet, but I’m thankful for yours.

  3. anonymous

    June 24, 2014

    I have had many thoughts around the recent news and sadness around all of it. I have so many thoughts and perspectives but some would not be popular and one is this: Although I have had experiences where I have felt marginalized by men within the church (and out in the world as well), I have never, ever, ever felt more marginalized and condescended to than I have within the walls of my own church building and among my sisters in the gospel since the time I returned to work after giving birth to my first child. It has become one of my deepest sources of pain over the past ten years and I work diligently to not become bitter. The men within my wards have had the most respect for and and appreciation of what I can bring to the table in my callings because of my work outside the home and within my home.

    I so appreciate your post because while I do care about the issues at hand and believe they are important to discuss, I also believe we have cultural issues within the church that will never be solved by the ordination of women (I believe most organizations have cultural issues to resolve outside of their ideal operating mission).

    Our personal and spiritual suffering is the great equalizer and I try so hard to remember that when I have been wounded yet again and continue the uphill slog through knowing my place with the Lord as compared to those who believe they know me or my motivations.

  4. annegb

    June 24, 2014

    So today I told my husband I was almost afraid to go to church because of what’s happened. And he said huh, what do you mean? And I said if somebody says something about bloggers. And he said do you have to respond? And I said yeah uf they’re mean. And he said well you can just tell them where you stand. And I said alone. And he said what do you nean and I said you could stick up for me. And he said how. And I got mad and said forget it and he started yelling about how I let this situation with this woman (hits the newspaper with the front page headline) ruin our trip yesterday and it has nothing to do with us and she got what she deserved. And I said you could be on my side. And he kept yelling and I started bawling and he stomped out. He doesn’t even know my blogging name or my blog name. I’ve told him ad nauseum but he blows it off. Really. And I know this would probably be better on FMH but you said be vulnerable. So here it is. I don’t need a vigil and this will pass and I’m determined to put my chin up and brave the gauntlet that is church if for nothing else, the sake of my kids. But no chauvinist stupid head ( trying not to cuss) has anything on my r** b*****d husband. The hardest thing for me will not be facing the dense stubborn judgement of my fellow ward members it will be knowing that my husband is one of them. Blogging—this association has been a light for me all these years and I couldn’t stop if I tried. Haven’t been this down in years. Go Kate. Indeed.

  5. Cheri

    June 24, 2014

    Kel, thanks for the reminder that to live and love is to be vulnerable, and that there are as many ways to be vulnerable as there are people. annegb, thanks for being vulnerable and I’m sorry for your pain.

  6. Janice

    June 24, 2014

    Thank you.

  7. annegb

    June 24, 2014

    Well that was cathartic lol. Sorry kids. (I’m having him killed)

  8. Dalene

    June 24, 2014

    “I don’t want to wrap my heart in a box; I want to wrap it around people.’

    Amen.

    Thank you for being my sister, Kel. I continue to feel your arms wrapped around me from half a world away and it is yet another reminder that God loves me and knows my name.

  9. Dalene

    June 24, 2014

    Also, annegb – trying to wrap my arms around you from wherever I am to wherever you are. <3 Big hugs. I'm sorry for your pain. And also grateful that the couple of times I had to speak up, even if it didn't always go over well, at least I didn't have to have anyone killed. 😉 Dear girl, please hang on to that sense of humor.

  10. Sandra

    June 24, 2014

    “I don’t want to wrap my heart in a box; I want to wrap it around people.’ <3

    I love it, Kel. Yeah, there is a lot of pain out there- and hopefully we use it other people to make it easier, not harder.

  11. annegb

    June 24, 2014

    thanks….being vulnerable makes me feel very….vulnerable

  12. Lisa

    June 25, 2014

    Kel, I love your courageous, huge, dear heart.

  13. Catherine A.

    June 25, 2014

    You are a lovely, lovely soul Kel. And I love your heart.

  14. annegb

    June 27, 2014

    Girls, I have to tell you all is well at our house. He abjectly apologized and I sincerely acknowledged my neurotic tendencies and can we just forget we had this conversation?

    • Tay

      July 3, 2014

      Apologies are the mark of a good marriage. 🙂 I’m so glad to hear that all is well!

  15. Kellie aka Selwyn

    June 27, 2014

    Karen – absolutely, removing the mask is worth it for everyone!

    Melissa Y – thank you.

    Anonymous – here’s to us finishing our uphill slog towards the Lord!

    Annegb – thank you for your honesty, vulnerability and continued humour. Glad to hear all is well!

    Dalene – thank you, and here’s to having huge hearts that span the world!

    Cheri – I constantly need the reminder to be vulnerable, so happy to share it. And thank you for the sharing you do as well.

    Lisa & Catherine A – your hearts inspire me.

  16. Melissa Y

    June 27, 2014

    I’m just catching up on this conversation, but annegb, I think you are awesome.

Comments are closed.

RELATED POSTS