Recently at an event primarily made up of other police officers, I felt I had no choice but to step out of my comfort zone and ask a personal favour of all those in the room. A few—not many—in that auditorium knew of Stefanie’s murder, but we didn’t speak of it. That’s not why we were there. In that instance, however, it was important to the request I was about to make that they all understand the history behind the appeal.
First, I had to speak up—something I rarely do well. In this case my discomfort was compounded by the topic I was about to raise, which was bound to make everyone else uncomfortable. Then I needed to ask for help, a very difficult thing for me. When I finally found the nerve to speak, the absolute worst thing happened. I broke down and couldn’t articulate what I wanted to say. It was so embarrassing I wanted to die. This was a room full of my co-workers for heaven’s sake.
Fortunately it was the very end of the session, and I could run out the door and skip the luncheon to avoid bringing my newly resurrected elephant into the room to trample everyone.
As I packed up my car to leave, the most beautiful giant of a man walked up to me and gave me an enormous hug and told me how courageous he thought I had been to speak up. He had walked past me and could have continued, but instead he made a point of turning around, walked back and hugged me. I have no idea who he was, but I love him!
He made me feel so much better because he allowed himself to become just as vulnerable with me as I had been earlier in that auditorium. A conscious decision to accept vulnerability takes an unusual kind of courage. It’s not easy overcoming our natural inclination to protect ourselves from embarrassment, indignity and ridicule. This adorable man must certainly have been worried about my reaction. I had, after all, just cried in front of a whole room full of coppers—and there’s no crying in policing! What if he set me off again? What man wants some crazed female bawling on his shoulder, especially one he doesn’t know?
But those few moments of vulnerability gave us a connection. It allowed us to see each other as we truly were, without the façade—just two very human people. So many of us walk around forever putting on an act, so very afraid others might catch a glimpse of our real selves.
When we do this, we stifle the true joy that can come from being vulnerable because although it’s uncomfortable, it’s also the birthplace of courage, joy, happiness and gratitude. Courage says it’s okay to be imperfect and authentic, and that gives us a connection to others.
Connection to others is what allows us to both give and receive happiness, joy and gratitude, surely the reason we are on this earth to begin with. I am so grateful for the brief connection I had with that gentleman and for the reminder that letting others see in me that which I perceive as weakness, might, in fact, be just the opposite.
There are so many times we are vulnerable. When we do anything for the first time, when our emotions overrule our ability to suppress them, when we start a new job, begin a new relationship, when we begin anew (and sometimes alone) after the loss of a loved one. Being vulnerable is part of life and it’s often very frightening!
But when we truly see others and allow them to see us deeply and vulnerably then we are free to love with our whole hearts, even when there are no guarantees.