I want to Be Vulnerable, Honest and Open With Others, But How?

Back in 2013, Youtube vlogger Jeff Bethke published a popular video titled “What Does It Mean To Be Truly Human?”. In this video, Bethke speaks about the importance of being open and honest with others in your church community:

I know what you are thinking. It’s scary to be honest. It’s scary to be open. In fact, some times the person on the other side will reject us. They will hurt us, or they’ll make us want to crawl back into our isolated cave. See me; I’d rather take the messiness of community, and possible joy than the cleanliness of isolation, in sure despair. Because if you want to know the true depths of joy, and the true reality of love, then you have to be honest, open and transparent. 

Growing up, I feared vulnerability more than death itself. I couldn’t stand the thought of someone discovering that behind my class clown act, was a broken record of insecurities and heart ache. I remember the day I rocked up to school with eyes swollen and bruised by the amount of tears that I had shed the night before. I turned my pain into a joke, telling my friends that I was suffering an allergic reaction. We laughed about it.

Life taught me that it was easier to sweep pain under the rug than to confront it with truth. To keep my distance from others, I jumped from one friend to another, laughing loud and partying hard. I was convinced, that if the gaping cracks in my life were ever exposed, I would be completely abandoned.

It was only until I was in my early 20′s that I realised the amount of people I had hurt in the process of hiding. That life was exhausting. That being a drama queen was not so fun anymore. That covering my tracks with lies was sapping the joy out of life. It was around this time that I started learning about a God of grace, a God who loved me unconditionally despite my failures and inability to love him back: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8)

This didn’t make sense. It challenged everything I’ve ever believed about fairness and love. How could someone possibly love me if I failed over and over to meet their expectations?

As grace started to permeate every nook and cranny of my life, the fear of being completely known by God and others, started to lessen. The more I understood that God accepts me and loves me no matter what, the easier it became to approach his throne in confession and repentance. This is where God’s transforming power began to work in my life.

In my years of meeting with different women, I have learned that I am not the only one who struggles with vulnerability. Whether you’re the ‘younger sister’ who flees the community because of guilt and shame, or the ‘older sister’ who hides behind a fortress of good works, we all struggle to a degree of being completely known. We obsess to maintain a certain image because, despite our failure, it’s frightening to trust in something beyond yourself.

If we search the Scriptures, we learn that even though we are fully known we are also fully accepted. The unconditional love and acceptance we all search for in life is a reality in the gospel of grace: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us"(Rom 5:8). 

Good works never precedes salvation and our merit never precedes acceptance. We can let our guards down because grace liberates us from the fear of judgment, and enables us to “pour out our hearts to God” (Psalm 62:8).

Tim Keller puts it this way:

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

In my fight against fear of judgment, I have learned that there is nothing I can possibly share with God that will shock or embarrass Him. God knows every shameful secret I’m hiding, but like a loving father, He asks me to repent and rest in His unfailing love.

And so I’ll end with this warning: the longer you put off repentance, the harder your heart will become. The habit of hiding your sin from God will roll over into your relationships with others. You’ll lock up your heart from your friends in fear of rejection. You’ll pretend to be perfect because you’ll assume that no one will love you for who you truly are. You’ll rob yourself of the freedom and joy that comes from hearing the words of your Saviour: “Your sins are forgiven.“ (Luke 7:48)

The way to becoming more open, honest and transparent begins with your relationship with God. As perfect love increases, the fear of man will decrease. Best of all, you will be able to open up yourself to love others in the same way that Christ has loved you:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18


This content originally published here. Used with permission. 

Photo of Heidi Tai

Heidi Tai

I’m Heidi, an Australian born Chinese who grew up in Sydney, Australia. I love drinking coffee, getting lost in the Marvel universe, and pumping 90’s RnB and Hip Hop beats. I am married to my BFF Mikey, and together we started Providence Church in Brisbane. ​

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