on vulnerability

it's amazing to see how all-in kids are. how wholeheartedly they live. if we discipline layla, she immediately says, "you huht mah feelins!" its precious and humbling to know we have that power and to see her hand it over to us so readily.

but oh how quickly they learn. how quickly this effed up world teaches us to harden our hearts. judah, at almost 4, has already learned to put on armor and not show "weakness." if we spank him (because, yes, we spank) he has started to go, "that didnt hurt me," even if i can see that his little lip is trembling from the guilt and conflict.

i can remember learning the elementary school lessons of never let them see you cry, and just pretend like it doesnt bother you. granted, if someone calls you a doo-doo face, this is a pretty expedient way of dealing with the dummy booger head. i dont fault the teachers and parents who taught me these things at all and i know that those lessons will probably be part of our parenting in some form too--just to get our kids through those magical doo-doo face years.

and it makes sense. this world is not a safe place for a tender, innocent heart. but i wonder if this is one of those things-that-dont-make-sense that jesus wants to call our hearts to. 

but as i have grown and matured, i have regretted this lifelong practice--which has now become an instinct--of putting on emotional armor. it took several years of back-and-heart-breaking work in my marriage to realize that i wasnt actually a crazed rageaholic-anger-monster after all, but that anger had become the armor i used to hide the fact that jesse's actions or words hurt me. 

telling someone that they have hurt you gives them power. plain and simple. this is the essence of vulnerability. you are exposed because they now know HOW to hurt you. uh-doy. 

i had to learn that i can trust jesse 100%. when i hand him my squishy, fragile heart, he does actually have the power to squash it and pulverize me. but, yall he never ever does. because a broken and hurting wife is about 50 million times easier to love like christ does than a snarling rage-demon. uh-doy

here is how an interaction would go:

1. jesse would say or do something that would hurt my feelings (unintentionally because he's a boy, uh-doy), but INSTANTLY (before i even acknowledged in my own brain, "ouch that hurt") i would get angry. anger was my armor. 

2. in my head he would become the playground bully, so i couldnt give him the power of knowing that he had/could hurt me, so through my anger, i would  now have the upper hand by being the aggressor first.

3. my anger would catch him off guard and he would immediately throw up his own walls to protect himself from my salvo.

4. this defensiveness would seem to justify my anger (if he's defending he MUST be guilty) and we would carry on fighting about the aggression/defensiveness for hours and completely miss the little sneaky heart issue that sparked it all off. 

this method of escalation is insane and frustrating beyond belief and never (or only after 3 hours of teeth-gnashing and crying) gets to the heart of the matter...which IS the heart.

as i learned to slow down ask myself the question, "why the crap did that make me so angry?" i began to realize that it was HURT that i was really feeling, and not the ensuing anger. i had learned in my first 20 years to hide hurt so it had become a knee-jerk thing: feel hurt-->get angry. 

so i decided to slow down the process, to cut the fuse between the teensy spark and the powder keg. i told jesus that i had no hope of doing this through my own efforts and told him to step up and please make it happen in me (obviously he loves a good pep talk).

the first time i tried this with jesse was terrifying. saying "you hurt me" in a darwinian sense is stupid and a great way to not get your DNA passed on. animals come with all sorts of camouflage, behaviors and instincts to AVOID letting predators see their weak spots, and here i was broadcasting mine. soft white underbelly has never been such an apt phrase...

but jesse isnt a predator, he's a knight in shining armor. so instead of his walls going up to protect himself from the she-dragon, when he saw that i was actually a damsel in distress he immediately threw down the drawbridge and came riding out to rescue me.  it was tender yall. AND SO EFFECTIVE. and more than a little bit Aragorn Sexypants.

rather than talking about himself--the way you do when you are defending--he was able to come to where i was, address my wounds, and say, "oh my gosh, i hate that you are hurting, i completely didnt mean for that to happen. i am so sorry."  this was great because it always made me SO mad that he wasnt hearing MY problem first and addressing it before moving on to his stuff (his stuff being, "I DONT KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!"). 

so thats where we've been for the past few years. it doesnt always go perfectly like that because there are scars and hurt on both sides of this marriage (jesus is like deep tissue massage a lot of times and he softens you by letting you be hurt and tended to by him), but it has brought us to SUCH a deep and real place where we dont feel like we have to walk around in a full set of plate and mail all the time, waiting for the other one to thrust and parry. (i read game of thrones...and i had coffee...sorry)

taking off armor has started to feel much more like taking off chains. living with my whole heart has made me so much less cold and shut down. dropping my pride and the facade of being bulletproof has been beautifully humbling and freeing.

since it worked so well in marriage, i have started trying to apply it to almost all of my relationships. observation #1: SCARY! holy moly. i know jesse dukes' entire story and trust him with my life...branching out to people who arent this intimate (even closest friends) is straight harrowing because they've probably never taken a vow to love and protect me the way that my husband has.

observation #2:  being vulnerable with unhealthy people (aka anyone, but specifically people who dont value maturity or chirst-like living) can be DANGEROUS. truth: i have gotten stomped a few times by doing this. and it hurt

but ever since i stopped making my priority "dont let them (or yourself) see your hurt" it's okay. crying stinks. and getting your heart broken is almost the worst. but at least i get to walk away from those moments knowing that i shared my real self and my real heart. RATHER than those interactions where youre like acting all cool and collected and just passive aggressively trying to back door zing one another. no one wins after those and you just walk away harboring poison for the other person that will eat you right up.

no matter how unhealthy the person i am dealing with, i am betting there are very few relationships where the other person cares so little for me that hearing, "i am feeling hurt by something you said/did" makes them salivate and want to go in for the kill. observation #3: if you hand someone your gelatinous, helpless heart and they--fully knowing that they can--stomp it, that is probably a relationship to get away from for now.

*disclaimer: there is a middle ground between "oh i never wanted you to be hurt," and "AVAST YE! I KILL YOU AND YOUR HEART!" where even well-intentioned, mature, jesus-loving people might not be ready to receive your vulnerability. in these instances, i just try to power through with, "i want you to hear me...this isnt about you, i am not saying you did something wrong, i am only talking about me and wanting to share with you where i am." it gets hard not to escalate or jump aboard the anger expressway when they dont get it immediately. stick with it. like playing dead with a grizzly. when they see youre not trying to fight, they usually stop trying to defend. either way...its not their fault.*

one of the first times that i decided to be vulnerable in a situation where i WANTED to be angry (outside of my marriage) was with one of my BFFs raechel. yes, it is weird at age 30 to be getting into "fights" with your friends (especially those that you met on the internet), but people are people and we are complex and i dont think there is anything to be ashamed of.

aaaaaanyway, we had been through some conversations where we both left feeling dinged up and un-cared for. my instinct was to just come after her and show her all the ways that she had done things wrong. but instead, we both decided to go to that mushy place and just share our hearts and where we were hurting.

it was HARD and it was pretty awkward at first, but it was AWESOME (that's what she said!...coffee). 

rather than one of us having to be declared wrong against some outside standard of right/wrong/rude we just got to care about each other. i decided to put my stuff down and really care for my hurting friend, and she did the same. it came to a point where arguing about the facts of what happened or what was said was irrelevant. because in the end, even if raechel 100% hallucinated it all (she didnt), she had still been hurt.

i had to decide that i cared way more about her heart (and sharing mine) than about being right. period (underlined, italicized and bolded...because yeah).

and thats really where i've landed on this thing. my whole life i have been fighting tooth and nail (and brass knuckles and sawed off shotgun) to be right. to feel vindicated and to feel justified. and it got me nowhere but stressed and frustrated and ANGRY.  when i stopped trying to be enough in some way where the judge in the courtroom rules in MY favor over others, i was able to just say, "here's where i am. how i'm broken. where i need love."  somehow me being up front with how jacked up and broken and breakable i am has given me the ability to love others and help them in their brokenness better. and the ability to say, "i probably did hurt you! i'm an emotional hot mess, after all!" 

its beautiful, but it makes no sense. it's backward jesus magic.

i'll never prove my way into god's grace by being more right than jesse or raechel or anyone. but i have his grace poured out and lavished on me when i say, "i am broken. i am hurting. i need to hand my heart over to YOU."

jesus is the model. he didnt care about being right. in fact, to the letter of the law, it often looked like he was wrong a lot of the time. he said again and again, "yall are missing it. its not about living up to some standard or being right. it's about your heart." he did the greatest thing in the history of all the things when he lost his trial, was declared wrong and then unhesitatingly gave us all his very heart. 

that's where i win. that's the only victory i am supposed to boast in or seek after. and it's his.  so is my heart, and he wants me to give it away no matter how it hurts. i'm working on it.


  1. And RaeKeightion lives on. All hail, Jesus.

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  3. Oh my gosh. This is the best down-to-earth, real, personal, Jesus-in-everyday-life type post (article, whatever) I have ever read. You have a gift. A gift with words. (Some I’ve never even heard before but whatever.) You have a way of bringing hard, difficult, scary things down to such a personal level you can’t help but use it in every day life! Seriously, if you are not counseling people or teaching a study group or something along those lines, people are missing out. I just can’t get over how you can bring so many truths down to an extremely super practical way of life! Like, duh, why didn’t I think of that?? But there’s a gift there with how you can think that logically and get it across SO well. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this!!!!
    (Also, I'm wondering how you "justify" for lack of a better word, cursing? You've used it here on your blog and you've also mentioned that you have real-life church friends that read your blog. Don't you wonder what they will say/do/think if they read that? Just curious! Sorry if this is too personal to ask here!)

    1. THANK YOU!!! that is seriously the most flattering and encouraging thing that i could hear in response to this post. if my years of stumbling and fighting through this stuff can help even one person, i am thrilled!

      about the cussing...NO not too personal and i love curiosity. i actually get this question so much that i put it on my FAQ page (though i did write that over 2 years ago and it sounds a tad more combative than i feel now!). i am still trying to strike the right balance between authenticity and "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial." thankfully we attend (and jesse is a pastor at) a church that isnt big on calling people out. i usually think, "would i say this to the head elder's face?' before i type something on here. that seems to be a good litmus test (and perhaps is a shocking indicator of how "real" i am in real life).

      i hope that makes sense. my synopsis is that i dont feel like i have to justify it at all! i dont think certain words are sins...but i always want to be open to being convicted by the holy spirit.

    2. There's another post that you've written (I don't have time to find it this second!) that was the same way - super down-to-earth and REAL about marriage and stuff. I have an anger response to getting frustrated and it is pretty similar to this, but slightly different at the same time. Now I need to figure out how to conquer it because I do NOT handle the frustration and anger the right way. And it's because I'm super selfish. This has been a struggle for years upon years and only got worse once I got married, and worse once I had kids! I've got to get a handle on this fast.

      I read your FAQ page right after leaving that comment. Thanks for your input :)

  4. funny: sounds like we've been taking lessons in the same school lately without knowing it. in a reversal of fortune, you're my peer leader this time, gal. so is brene brown--i've been reading 'daring greatly,' but it was her ridiculously approachable ted talks that first made me antsy with uncomfortable truth: http://www.brenebrown.com/videos/.

  5. You're the bomb-diggity.
    I read.
    And I take away.
    And I try.
    Thanks for that!
    --Amy (why can I not sign into wordpress today, huh?? annoying.)

  6. "he did the greatest thing in the history of all the things when he lost his trial, was declared wrong and then unhesitatingly gave us all his very heart."

    What a sentence. He was declared wrong, and guilty when He was innocent, so that we can be declared innocent when we're guilty.

    And what's so beautiful is that every time we put down our armor, we destroy the lie that says, "You'll regret this" for one another.

    Thanks for doing this for me so many times, you are brave and beautiful.

    1. Can I just say how sweet it is that your husband comments on your blog?! and calls you brave and beautiful? :) Awwwwww!

    2. i agree. he is slightly amazing.

  7. You are officially on my "safe people to do conflict with" list, FYI, which is a very short list. And it's because I've seen this dynamic in your life that you wrote about, even from a distance, and even though we haven't had our virgin friendship conflict (yet). I guess I'm just writing to tell you that yes, the things you are working for in your life, are visible to others. Even those who are still just getting to know you.

    Love you, love this.

    1. yes! i cant wait to conflict with you. hopefully about michelle and stanley. :)

  8. Great writing lady. I just kept thinking about Sansa, courtesy is a lady's armor. Well holy half-helm, anger can be a lady's armor too! Good for you on the intense introspection to figure out how you tick. I have the opposite problem, I am a big cry baby and immediately let people know when they've hurt me. Then you are not taken seriously bc of being labeled over sensitive :)

  9. So well said that I just know that Jesus himself is up there sayin' "I couldn't have said it better myself!"

  10. tender hearts of love for you. And thankful to have you as a friend (you're an awesome - and normal - one!) ;)

  11. One of my favorites in a long list of favorite posts, Keight! Thank you for revealing your heart, not just to Jesus and Jesse, but to all of us. So good to be reminded of your precious heart.

  12. One of my favorites in a long list of favorite posts, Keight! Thank you for revealing your heart, not just to Jesus and Jesse, but to all of us. So good to be reminded of your precious heart.

  13. Man...I have been learning to speak the hurt in my heart for the past few years just with circumstances that have come up in my life and it's hard...but so freeing once you are on the other side. And I know I am not perfect at it most of the time. I am still learning. But reading this gave me encouragement to continue on and to allow Jesus to continue working at my heart. I have a friend I have been meaning to talk with for the past few weeks but my fear of confrontation keeps getting the best of me. Maybe it's time? Thanks for this post :)