Awkwardness and Vulnerability

The great thing about being married to a reader is that if my husband cares, really cares, about what he’s reading, it is read out loud. Then we talk about it more in the car while the Cars 2 soundtrack is playing and the boys and I are dropping him off at work.  Then he processes it more with me on the way home because he cannot stop.

Today, I will share with you what Chris has been reading, because it’s been on my mind this week as well. It’s called Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte. I’ve written before about how these past two years, while we lived in San Francisco, both of us were learning about calling, identity and what defines us. Chris was introduced to Whyte, who is also a poet (though I have yet to read his work) through our church in San Francisco. I’ve quoted him before here. I’m dumbstruck by how beautifully and honestly he writes about the human condition. So, I have to share these words with you today.


“We have the strange idea, unsupported by any evidence, that we are loved and admired only for our superb strength, our far-reaching powers, and our all knowing competency. Yet in the real world, no matter how many relationships may have been initiated by strength and power, no marriage or friendship has ever been deepened by these qualities. After a short, erotic honeymoon, power and omnipotence expose their shadow underbellies and threaten real intimacy, which is based on mutual vulnerability. After the bows have been made to the brass god of power, we find in the privacy of relationship that same god suddenly immobile and inimicable to conversation. As brass gods ourselves, we wonder why we are no longer loved in the same way we were at our first appearance. Our partners have begun to find our infallibility boring and , after long months or years, to find us false, frightening, and imprisoning.

We have the same strange idea in word as we do in love: that we will engender love, loyalty, and admiration in others by exhibiting a great sense of power and competency. We are surprised to find that we garner fear and respect but forgo the other, more intimate magic. . .

We have an even stranger idea: that we will finally fall in love with ourselves only when we have become the totally efficient organized organism we have always wanted to be and left all of our bumbling ineptness behind. Yet in exactly the way we come to find love and intimacy with others through vulnerability, we come to those same qualities in ourselves through living out the awkwardness of not knowing, of not being in charge.

We try to construct a life in which we will be perfect, in which we will eliminate awkwardness, pass by vulnerability, ignore ineptness, only to pass through the gate of our lives and find, strangely, that the gateway is vulnerability itself. The very place we are opening to the world whether we like it or not” (emphasis mine).


The gate of our lives is awkwardness, vulnerability and ineptness. Wow, right? I don’t have anything else to say. I’m just thinking on this today. What’s your reaction?




Filed under Books

4 Responses to Awkwardness and Vulnerability

  1. Mollie

    This is tied to several things I’ve been thinking lately about myself, my calling, and my job. Since I’m not who I thought I was going to be, am I a failure, or is who I turned out to be actually part of God’s design? Is it possible that all my choices, my weirdness, my fallacies, are what make me the perfect vessel for God in this place and time? I think we have misunderstood what it means to strive to be perfect like Christ. That misunderstanding has taken us down some dark personal roads. So we go from here, with what we’ve got, understanding that what we’ve got is how God made us, and strive for perfection in that.

    Thanks for this - I am really loving your blog.

  2. yup. At 40-something, living it. Dying to perfectionism and killing the inner critic after learning that it is all grace. In this newfound word, I am able to love myself and finding value in my imperfection thus giving me more potential to love others…… offer the same grace that is changing me and allowing me to create once again.

  3. I love it! It’s that upside down kingdom, absurdity of the beatitudes thinking: His power is made perfect in our weakness. Have you seen Brene Brown’s TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability?” (It’s a little long but worth it. You can find it on It really awakened me to the relationship between perfectionism and judgement, and conversely, vulnerability and compassion: the reality that vulnerability allows me to receive compassion for myself, and extend it to others. Ah, grace. I’m excited to check out Whyte’s work. Thanks.

  4. Pingback: Tired, but Thankful | mama:monk

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