The Difference Between Honesty & Vulnerability

Honesty is not a big issue for me, but it used to be. I would tell "little" lies to save face or cover my mistakes. I would exaggerate my strengths or things I did in order to look better in someone else's eyes. I would tell stories of things that never really happened to that "friend of a friend" of mine.

It took a lot of work for me to become truly honest with myself and others. Full transparency: it's still sometimes a temptation for me. I absolutely hate looking inept or incapable. If I do something embarrassing, my first instinct is to make up an excuse for what I did.

Through continually practicing honesty in all situations, I am amazed at how comfortable I have become in my own humility. When you try to pull a door with a "push" sign on it as much as I do, you become very familiar with humility. I think God may even have given me that unique "ability" just to keep me from becoming too prideful.

So with honesty a well-practiced character quality, it caught me by surprise when God showed me how he didn't just want me to be honest with others, but also vulnerable.

Photo by David Davila Vilanova / CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by David Davila Vilanova / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Difference Between Honesty & Vulnerability

Whereas honesty is about speaking the truth, vulnerability is about speaking openly in a way that could put you at risk of getting disappointed, let down, judged, or hurt.

Let's put it this way: honesty is telling a friend that you're struggling and would like her to pray for you; vulnerability is telling your friend that you've been impatient and snapping at the kids this week and you would like her to pray for your heart to be repentant and filled with grace for your kids.

Honesty is a character quality that needs to be shown to all people. Vulnerability is a state of being that you reserve for a handful of trusted people. I can choose to be honest with everyone, but it would be unwise to be vulnerable with everyone.

I make a strong effort to be authentic in my relationships with others and even online through this blog or social media. I don't want to mislead or deceive anyone. However, I can be genuine and honest about my life without sharing the most difficult and sensitive parts. Sometimes, a situation needs to be private for a short time. Other times, especially if it involves another person, it needs to remain private.

Keeping certain parts of your life private does not make you disingenuous, it makes you wise.

Breaking Down the Walls

However, we can use the excuse of "I'm just a private person" to keep a wall up around us. Vulnerability puts us at risk, yes; but it also opens us up to deeper, more meaningful relationships.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the difference between inviting your friend to look at your house from across the street and inviting her into your house for coffee. It would be difficult to build a relationship with someone if all you ever did was wave from your living room window at the woman standing on the other side of the road.

It isn't an easy decision to test the waters of vulnerability with someone. What if they reject me? What if they judge me? What if they tell other people?

There is risk in opening up to someone, but there's also risk in never opening up to anyone.

Choose your people and choose to go first. Make sure you have women in your life you can trust. Don't open up to women who gossip. If someone is willing to gossip to you about someone else, the chances are very high that she will gossip about you to someone else.

But if you have good friends, women you admire and trust, but your friendships have always been "surface level," try going deeper by sharing openly about something you are struggling with. Your level of vulnerability will often allow other people to feel safe enough to become vulnerable with you.

Being vulnerable with another person takes courage, but it is required for true connection. What starts out feeling like a huge risk ends up growing into something far more rewarding.


LifeTaryn Nergaard