The Difference Between Openness and Vulnerability


It sucks to be closed- to have a closed heart, mind, soul.

I think a lot of people know that; even the ones who are closed. And I think we all become closed at points throughout our lives. The point, of course is that we keep them to points and not countless seasons.

My curiosity isn’t piqued so much by the open vs. closed conversation. But it is piqued by the openness vs. vulnerability conversation.

Here’s what I think the difference is:

Openness is the willingness to tell people your story.

Vulnerability is your willingness to let others be part of it.

Believe it or not, I think they’re often inversely correlated. I’ve noticed that super open people are usually being open to compensate for lack of vulnerability.

I know because I’ve observed it, but mostly, because I use to be that way.

You see, when you’re open, few people dig deeper. Few people ask you harder questions. They just assume that if you’re open, you’re telling them the whole story. But a lot of times, openness serves as a shield- when you’ve got it up, you rarely need to be vulnerable with people.

The problem is, that way of living sucks. Being open without being vulnerable is arguably worse than being closed and not vulnerable. At least when you’re closed, you have the opportunity to own you impenetrability.

And that’s one of the greatest lies we need to overcome: that openness can serve as a substitution for vulnerability. It simply cannot.

If we want to experience the total depths of life, we need to be super vulnerable. We forego vulnerability because it’s less painful. In essence, we numb our ability to feel pain. But in the process, we also numb our ability to experience true joy.

Openness without vulnerability, then, doesn’t equate to a painless life. It equates to an emotionless life. And that’s totally pointless.

I’m convinced that the world belongs to the vulnerable. The people who won’t just share their stories, but actively look for opportunities to engage people in theirs. To welcome people in; to build close relationships; to put your whole heart on the line, at the risk of being judged, disliked, or even hated.

If you were to create a list of people you genuinely admired and respected, I would put money down that the common thread isn’t success, clout, money, outgoingness, etc. It’s vulnerability. We fall in love with people who are super vulnerable-super real.

It’s the vulnerable who tell stories that bring us to tears and warm our hearts. It’s the vulnerable who give us courage to take risks and be ourselves. It’s the vulnerable who live life ON FIRE, and move us to do the same.

It’s not about not being closed.

It’s not even about being really open.

It’s about being totally, unapologetically you, and vulnerably so.

If you can do that, the future belongs to you. Because that’s what it takes to shake and shape the world.

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