We are in the midst of a vulnerability crisis.
Every day, the people around us go to work, school, and church dealing with incredible trials. In my favorite film, Memoirs of a Geisha, the narrator says, “She paints her face to hide her face.” From what I can observe, most of us are doing just that. We are hiding ourselves so that we can’t be seen.
The people I talk to say “judging others” is a major difficulty in Mormon culture, especially here in Utah County. They mention the pressures to appear perfect, to dress the right way, to have the right things, to have the right body type, etc. We compensate for our imperfections and trials by purchasing big trucks, trendy bags, and VASA memberships. We paint our faces to hide them.
Mormon culture isn’t having a judgment problem, it’s having a vulnerability problem. Vulnerability is that moment of anxiety and release that comes from exposure to others. It happens when we cry at a pulpit. It happens when we ask or answer hard questions from our roommates. It happens when we call the bishop for an appointment. It’s those moments of “me too”.
Vulnerability is scary because of what it has the power to do. When we are vulnerable, we essentially give the ammo needed to destroy us over to another person. We allow an opportunity for embarrassment and shame to take hold, and it is really dang scary.
However, our ability to be vulnerable is also the thing that can offset the judgment we feel. We strive for perfection, and in our fortuitous journey we make mistakes and suffer spiritual, emotional, and mental disfigurement. We take the attention aimed at us and reflect it back on others. We try to keep the judgement at bay by pulling others into the spotlight. We judge so we won’t be judged, even though the scripture says “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Vulnerability is different. Vulnerability takes center stage. It takes the spotlight and says, “Here. I. Am.” Shame is the fear of disconnection. It’s why we hide out vulnerabilities; for fear that what makes us different will separate us from others. In all reality, it’s our vulnerability that shows to others who we really are, and allows them to do the same.
In fast and testimony meeting, our Sunday School President got up and bore his testimony. He told us of his long addiction to pornography, how blessed he is to have a wonderful finance who loves and understands him, and his gratitude for Christ. He opened up his chest, and exposed his heart, and his weakness. The effect of his vulnerability allowed our Elder’s Quorum President to share how he overcame his doubt of God. It prompted a spiritually charged message from a girl in the ward who has been undergoing depression and other trials.
That one message was a catalyst for the spirit in our meeting. It drew us together as a ward family. Vulnerability feels like it should disconnect us, but really it connects us. We are all broken and chipped with amazing paint jobs. Underneath our masks are battle scars and tear streaked faces. How would our culture change if we were more vulnerable? Could we possibly judge another person if we knew them like Christ does?