“This week,” I recently told the 25 students in the online class I had been teaching for BGU, “I want you to engage with someone who is different from you. Ask them questions so that you can understand more, not to interrogate them. Seek to understand their worldview. Your assignment is to journal about what you learned from them.”
The class was called “Globalization and Cross-Cultural Engagement,” and I had no idea the assignment would be so profound for many of the students. One got together with a Hindu colleague and asked questions about the Hindu faith. Another sat down for an enlightening conversation with a transvestite friend of his daughter’s. One student addressed faith for the first time in more than 20 years with her sister who had walked away from the church years ago.
One student after another confessed to it being the first time they truly tried to understand while withholding judgment, and without seeing to convince the other person of how wrong they were. And several students reported that there has been a shift in their relationships in the cases where they interviewed someone they had an existing relationship.
Listening to the other person ushered in a sense of trust, which opened the door to being vulnerable and speaking truth.
Dr. Brené Brown (whose TedTalk has been viewed more than a million times and is worth watching again, even if you’ve seen it before) recently published a new book called Daring Greatly. In it, Brown says,
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
If you’ve listened to that famous TedTalk, you might remember Dr. Brown referring to her study on shame, explaining, “Shame is … the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?” To overcome that fear, she says, takes “excruciating vulnerability.”
So, here are my challenges to you:
- Would you seek ways in which you can become a safe place for others to share their hearts, even if their worldview differs vastly from yours? Would you take on the challenge I gave my students and interact with people who might be different from you, and simply seek to understand rather than to change them?
- And would you ask God in which ways you may need to be courageous enough to be vulnerable and share something with a friend, or with a spouse, or with your child, something you’ve been too afraid to share? (Having prayerfully taken on this challenge myself, I can testify that this may be hard, but it may lead to greater depth and greater trust in that relationship.)
If you’re willing to take on one of these challenges (or both), would you mind writing a simple comment saying you’ll do it (without sharing details, unless it’s to share the response to the first challenge).
I pray that this exercise in truth, courage and vulnerability will till the soil for richer, deeper relationships.
Adéle Booysen works for Compassion International
and usually calls Chiang Mai, Thailand “home.”