The Oxford dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.” Key word in there: expectation. When we are hopeful, we hold expectation for something or someone. We are expectant. And when we hold onto that desire, there’s always a chance that it isn’t going to turn out how we envision.
Being hopeful is being vulnerable. It means we are not only holding onto an expectation, but believing in a positive outcome. Authentic hopefulness eradicates doubt. Even if we are fully aware it might not turn out in our favour – we hold on anyway.
In a world that is as cynical as ever, holding on to hope is brave, it’s genuine and it’s fighting to stay positive/optimistic. It’s refusing to settle in with the attitude of “there’s no guarantee” or “that doesn’t happen to people like me” or even “yeah that could happen, but it probably won’t, so it’s not worth the risk”. All of these statements stem from stuck and stubborn mindsets. Comments like this are incredibly saddening because they have almost always been formed by really difficult situations involving a lot of hurt.
When faced with such situations, a resistance can build to the point that prevents us from putting ourselves forward – preventing us from being hopeful there is something great waiting. When expectations aren’t met, it hurts. But this is where vulnerability comes in.
What does it mean to be vulnerable?
Vulnerability is a form of bravery. It is embracing fear and the unknown in your mind – pushing through the uncomfortable in order to attempt to move forward. We human beings crave affirmation and reassurance, especially woman. And so when we are faced with a situation where we are completely unsure what response or action will be received – we’re in a tough spot.
Overcoming this place requires bravery, because it means we need to consciously confront the uncomfortable; we need to do something about what’s going on and face the potential hurt. Stepping into this and remaining hopeful is being vulnerable.
How many times have you embraced an uncomfortable conversation or been asked a question that’s taken you off guard? The kind where you’re nervous, you’re wondering whether it’s worth trying in the first place. Maybe it’ll do “damage”, maybe they’ll completely reject what you are trying to communicate, or maybe they will completely misunderstand and hold that against you… you get the drift. There are a million negative, doubtful, consuming thoughts that can flash through our minds. I’m willing to bet you’ve been here – I most definitely have.
Some thinking of this nature does ground us in the reality of what we’re approaching and helps us to prepare. But it also can prevent genuine interaction. If we let fear and resistance that has built up from previous hurts get the better of us, we miss out on a whole lot of growth, and potentially, the hidden deep-down desire we really want when we let ourselves admit it.
Hope and vulnerability in relationship
This is true also of our relationships with others. Why would we share our hearts if we didn’t place hope in those we are sharing with? If we didn’t believe that it would help the relationship? If there isn’t belief in the benefit of sharing a piece of who we are, our thoughts and experiences – we aren’t placing much hope in those before us.
Dating is an example of this most people can relate to, but this is definitely relevant to non-romantic relationships also. If we never share the parts of what makes us who we are (the experiences that have shaped our thoughts and the hurts that have altered our behaviours), we will never move past a very surface level relationship. Another equally large part of this though is hope for the future – sharing what you want and hope to happen within the relationship can be scary because you are voicing those expectations, and not knowing (until you do) if those are mutual.
We have to hold onto being hopeful, not only internally in our own minds, but with those who are important to us. We should believe that sharing our desires and expectations will be of benefit. Because at minimum, even if it doesn’t go how you envision, this embraces honesty and integrity. Be brave enough to step into this – be brave enough to want authenticity.
Sharing your heart
There’s a piece of advice that begun to bug me, particularly within Christian culture. It’s the phrase “guard your heart”. This is often said with good intentions and please don’t mistake this post as a call to go out and share every deep inner thought to anyone who will listen. But sharing what is on your heart when the right opportunity arises is important. The consciousness of “guarding your heart” can sometimes create resistance to the kind of human interaction that we actually need more of: honest, genuine, upfront conversations.
You know those moments where you’re in the middle of a conversation and a thought comes front of mind, but the prospect of actually saying that out loud feels really uncomfortable? If what you’re thinking is of a sensitive nature, you might not want to just blurt it out, but also consider this: that thought is probably front of mind for a reason. And embracing this might be exactly what is needed to step forward.
I’ve intentionally been trying to get better at this, but previously I chose to say nothing all the time. I would bat off genuine thoughts that came front of mind just because I didn’t know how they would be received and because they required me to share a piece of how I was feeling. This place of “safety” wasn’t choosing to be hopeful and it wasn’t choosing to be genuine with those around me.
If I encouraged myself to always guard my heart, I wouldn’t get anywhere with anyone. I wouldn’t have wholesome beautiful relationships with those closest to me. As a careful person by nature, the advice to be guarded can actually be a hindrance, because it tells me that there is something to fear, and that I shouldn’t hope for beautiful outcomes in those slightly uncomfortable moments. Being more vulnerable and letting go of my guarded nature when appropriate is actually the best thing I could have done. If I didn’t place hope and trust in those I was interacting with, whether or not this did go favorably, I wouldn’t be choosing to grow.
We usually think the worst…
But this isn’t usually the reality! Not only is vulnerability needed for genuine interaction, but it allows those around us the opportunity to connect with us and maybe even reciprocate. Most of us really respect and value genuine interaction. We crave it. It inherently encourages the person you are with to also share and potentially reciprocate in the same nature; it creates a safe place for them to share their own heart.
Vulnerability can breathe life. Even if sharing something uncomfortable or revealing doesn’t lead down a two-way street and you don’t find a connection, you have spoken with integrity and intentionality, and there is so much goodness in that alone.
Give others a chance
I’m currently learning in a new way to communicate when I need something or if something is lacking. This. Is. Hard. I hate asking for things. I’m not very good at it. Gently confronting someone I really care about is scary, because of course I want never to offend them or sound critical or even ungrateful for all the beautiful things they already do, but it’s also important.
If I didn’t embrace this uncomfortable, not only would I continue to hurt unnecessarily, but those around me wouldn’t even get a chance to love me better. If you’re even slightly hopeful or willing to have a more vulnerable conversation with someone, I’m willing to bet that you care about them. If you care, give them a chance by revealing a little more.
Hope is vulnerable, but it also holds unlimited potential. Remain hopeful in others, hopeful in what God holds for your life and grow through it. It’s worth the effort.