The Power of Vulnerability
Last night I felt naked. Don’t worry. I wasn’t. I was amongst friends in a safe place. It was warm inside, cold outside. The lighting was friendly. The food was good. The atmosphere was lovely.
I attended my ‘graduation’ dinner for my intermediate French class. Because I sat next to the instructor, I spoke more French last evening than I did all semester! And there were moments when I felt as stripped down to my threadless self as the day I was born.
Speaking a foreign language can give you the sense you are a toddler again. You struggle to master a skill that everyone else around you seems to execute effortlessly. It can be frustrating to struggle that way. But it can bring you closer together to the people who struggle the same way you do.
Although the participants in this French class have known each other much longer than me, we quickly built a cohesive group. Our ages differ vastly, from folks in their 20s up to late 60s. Despite our clear differences, they lovingly welcomed me into their fold. I wondered about why they would be so willing to include me because that hasn’t been my experience in most social situations in Germany.
It became clear to me that the instructor, a French Canadian who still struggles with the German language one and a half decades later, has her share of integration challenges too. She feels just as bare speaking German as I do speaking French. And perhaps that is the key as to why it works so well.
As I hugged the last person goodbye last night, I could really feel the love.
And that loves comes from the willingness to be vulnerable, look foolish and engage in conversation anyway, mistakes and all. We share a common bond of walking around with our pants around our ankles (in a linguistic sense!) for the sheer love of learning French.
It’s inspiring to me how vulnerability can indeed make us so courageous, open and strong. In fact, it is evidence that we are capable of learning new things, no matter our age, heritage and beliefs.
Living vulnerably offers us the richness of life. It can be so sweet. I for one wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
** For more on vulnerability, see this post.