320 – The Power of Vulnerable Communication

This Week on Soul Talks

Being open and honest in sharing our thoughts and emotions takes courage, and can be intimidating. But Jesus is calling us out of our comfort zones and into this vulnerable space through safe relationships, because ultimately it leads us into greater intimacy with him! 

Join Bill and Kristi for this Soul Talk on vulnerable communication, where they unpack how vulnerable communication helps free us from our shame and opens the door for personal and spiritual growth. You’ll learn how you can create a safe space for others to speak vulnerably, and how, in that, you are an ambassador of God’s love and grace!

Resources for this episode: 

The Power of Vulnerable Communication Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere

Bill

Let’s have a Soul Talk. We are so glad to have you in conversation with us. 

Thank you so much for following Jesus with us. 

In Soul Talks, we seek to have an authentic conversation, invite you into that, and call you into that way of life and relationship and ministry.

Kristi 

Love hearing from you too, and being in community with you. 

And one of the things that we hear from you quite often is you thank us for being honest, transparent, and vulnerable with you in these Soul Talks. 

And it’s the same when we speak or at our Soul Shepherding Institute, people always come up and they always say, “Thank you for sharing so vulnerably.” 

And,  “Honestly, in real time, it helps me to know I’m not alone.” 

“It helps me to have hope and to feel like I can work through these things too.” 

Thank you for giving us that feedback, because that helps us to continue to take courage to be vulnerable and honest.

And it does take courage. 

It’s actually a death-to-self.

I have to take courage to overcome my pride that wants to manage my image and what people think of me.

And so it’s helpful when I see God using it in your lives. 

Recently, I was with one of you and we were having a soul talk and you said to me, “How do you do it? How do you make yourself be so vulnerable and transparent?”

I thought about that and, well, I think it’s in part because I have appreciated saints who have gone before me who have done that.

Like Henry Nouwen and Brennan Manning

In their writing, they’ve been vulnerable. They’ve been transparent. 

They’ve been honest about their struggles and it so helps me because they would verbalize and articulate things that I was feeling ashamed about or that I felt judged for. 

And I was like, wow, they’re able to be so at peace in God’s love for them, and so secure in God’s love for them that they’re willing to risk being judged. They’re willing to risk being shamed.

As I observed that I felt so much gratitude because it benefited me and it gave me courage to realize I can bring my true self out into the light. 

I don’t need to hide in shame.

I can trust God’s love. 

Then I started venturing out on that with safe people.

That’s what got me started being able to be open and vulnerable.

We Can Learn Vulnerability from Having Great Examples

Bill

It makes such a difference. 

Thinking back, even in my relationship with Dallas Willard, when I was meeting with him he was often vulnerable with me, surprisingly so. 

He would share something with me or ask for prayer. 

Even though the point of the conversation was him listening to me, mentoring me, and guiding me just before we started Soul Shepherding.

And bringing Spiritual Formation and Soul Care to pastors, missionaries, and leaders. 

But that authenticity, that realness, that life on life. 

It’s sacred. 

It’s sacred ground, it’s a holy conversation and it inspires a lot of trust and respect when someone who is accomplished, who’s a leader, and who has things to teach us is on the journey with us. 

And they have some areas of need or brokenness and it takes courage to be vulnerable and let us into that space.

And so that’s been a journey for you Kristi, as an Enneagram Two— a helper. That’s not something that Twos are known for. 

They’re one of the types that has the most difficulty being vulnerable and saying, “Hey, this is what I need. This is where I’m hurting, where I’m struggling.”

Because Twos are all about other people and their needs and “How can I be caring and compassionate and what can I do to serve you?”

You’ve been on a journey for some years and I really admire the ways that you have grown in your self-awareness and your willingness, even when it might feel embarrassing, to be real and to be raw with people. 

To let them into your inner world.

Kristi 

Well, thank you. 

You’ve certainly been very helpful to me in this. 

And part of that’s because you’ve been safe for me to be able to be real with and to be honest and transparent with. 

And when I’m in shame, you often have been able to identify that and even ask me about it. 

You invite me to be honest and transparent and to step into the light with what I’m experiencing. 

And then as I’ve done that, you’ve been able to be an ambassador of God’s love and grace to me. 

That’s helped me. 

Giving me that appetite, there actually are people that I can be safe, real, and honest with. 

Not just God, but his people too.

Bill

That is really where it starts. 

It starts in a relationship, in our case a husband and wife, and partners in ministry and leadership. 

But we all need a safe friend. 

We need a soul friend.

Maybe it’s a spiritual director who is setting aside time, who is great at empathy, who keeps confidence and will listen to you prayerfully and ask great questions. 

That’s why we train spiritual directors in Soul Shepherding and our Institute. 

That’s why we have spiritual directors on our staff, because everybody needs to experience safety in a relationship. 

When we can be vulnerable with someone backstage, in our personal life, where we’re asking them to listen and support us, then we can bring that vulnerability into the Bible Study that we’re leading.

Or the sermon that we’re preaching, or some other area of ministry and leadership.

Finding Safety In Vulnerability

Kristi 

Yeah, it does take a lot of courage though. 

Because there still are times when we do expose ourselves to people that aren’t safe or people that don’t understand or people that do judge us. 

But as we find our security in the Lord and with safe people, and we have somebody like a spiritual director or counselor or soul friend, that we can process our feelings with, that really helps as well. 

Then, as we are able to stand with Jesus, receiving his love and grace as enough for us, it also helps us to really function in that true, authentic self.

And not worry about managing our reputation and what people think of us.

It’s been freeing for me. 

It’s been helpful for me to be able to live authentically in that way. 

Just as it’s helpful to me like you illustrated Bill, when other people are vulnerable and open with me, I feel honored. 

I feel like it’s holy ground. 

I feel like they’re really trusting me with their true self. 

And I want to really make sure that I’m in tune with the Holy Spirit and participating with his love and grace in their life.

Bill

Yeah. When I listen to a speaker or read a book, I’m always wondering “How is it working in your [the speaker’s or author’s] life?”

I so appreciate it when our spokespersons are authentic and vulnerable. 

And in order to be more that way in our relationships, in our ministry, you’ve really highlighted, Kristi, through your story that we need to work through the insecurity, the fear, the feelings of embarrassment and shame. 

We need to work that through in our personal life, with that soul friend.

Or with that spiritual director. 

Say more about that.

Kristi 

Yeah. Well, if we’re just being transparent with something we haven’t worked through, then we’re not really being a very good ambassador for Christ.

Bill

Because we might be using our audience like a therapist.

Kristi 

Yeah. 

If we’re just venting or we’re just emoting or we’re trying to process with people, in front of people, but it isn’t something where we’ve really experienced God meeting us and loving us and bringing his light and his grace to us (often through a soul shepherd), then it doesn’t feel good to the person listening at all. 

Because then they’re made to feel responsible, to feel bad, or to feel worried or tempted to judge. 

So that is an important part. 

While we are sharing and being vulnerable, we need to make sure we’re taking responsibility for that in our relationship, our health, our life, and discipleship to Jesus.

Bill

So if I’m writing an Instagram post or I’m sharing on a blog something personal from my life, something I’ve been struggling with, it would be really important for this to not be the first time I’ve shared this.

It’s important that I’ve shared this first with somebody who is supporting me. 

A person that I’m being vulnerable with, asking them to listen to me. 

Because once we have a platform and we share something, there is a certain sense of power we get in that place from the position of respect that we have.

People might idealize us and affirm us for being vulnerable. 

And if we’re playing to that, that’s gonna get us all messed up inside.

Kristi 

Absolutely it will. 

It’s important that we’re being authentic and our true self in every way. 

That we’re not using our weaknesses in a way that’s manipulative. 

We need to make sure we’re not using our sharing and authenticity in a way to manipulate people or even to try to get favor with them. 

But that we’re really offering our vulnerability to God as an offering, as a sacrifice. 

To trust him to use us in our strength and our weakness. 

To trust that he can use me as a wounded healer. 

So there’s this balance here, Bill, where we want to be able to share our process and even our pain authentically. 

But it doesn’t mean that we can’t share anything if we haven’t experienced complete healing, because the reality is we are in process with things. 

So, am I making progress in my discipleship to Jesus in this area? 

If I am, I think it’s helpful and good to share.

Even where there’s still wounds, where there’s still temptations, where there’s still hurts and pains and how God’s grace is meeting me in that. 

But if it’s a place where there hasn’t been any healing, there hasn’t been any experienced strength or hope, to borrow from the 12-Step language…

Bill

I was just thinking about that. Yeah.

Kristi 

If I don’t have any strength or hope to share, then maybe I don’t share that yet publicly.

Bill

Yeah. We share our experience, our strength, and our hope. 

So the experience is where there might be brokenness or some failing or woundedness, and there’s vulnerability and experience. 

But strength is like, “Well, I’ve been making some headway. I’ve been learning in this area. 

I’ve experienced some comfort or encouragement and there’s been some progress.”

And then the hope is like, “Well, this needs to be a blessing for other people.”

It’s not right when it’s my blog or my sermon or my Bible study, this needs to be helpful to them. 

So it needs to give people hope.

It Takes Courage To Be Vulnerable

Kristi 

Yes, but we do need a place, like in spiritual direction or counseling or soul friendship, where we do not have to share our experience, strength, and hope.

Bill

Where we can just share experience and just be broken.

Kristi 

Where we can just share experience and receive ministry. 

But when we’re in a position of ministry, that safe relationship is where we want to bring, authentically, our pain. 

We can also share where God’s grace is leading us and meeting us in that.

Bill

So share more about what has given you courage to be vulnerable. 

Because I remember conversations that we’ve had in years past, as you’ve been leaning into being more vulnerable in our Soul Shepherding Institute as you co-teach with me.

And as we go to churches and we speak places.

Whether it’s giving a sermon series, kicking off Journey of the Soul, partnering with the pastor, or when we do leadership training in churches, you’ve been leaning into authenticity for a number of years now. 

But getting into that place really took a lot of courage for you.

Kristi 

It took a lot of courage because for most of my life I have tried to hide my emotions and I have felt a lot of shame over how emotional I am and how strongly I feel emotions. 

And as I began to take courage to articulate and to share my emotions, it was really helpful for me to have other people come up and say, “Thank you for sharing that because I feel that too.”

It was freeing them from shame. 

And it was freeing me from shame too.

I came to realize that I can speak this. 

I don’t have to hide my experience. 

I don’t have to hide, in shame, my emotions about things. 

I felt the Lord really inviting me to live more authentically, transparently, and wholeheartedly before others like I do before Him.

I started to bring some of those articulations that I bring into my journaling or into my prayer times into relationships with others.

And as I did that with you early on in our marriage, I found that you would actually thank me. 

It would actually help you access and grow in awareness of ways that you had feelings that you weren’t even aware of. 

And as I saw it helping you that also gave me courage to realize, 

“Oh, okay, God uses this. When I venture on him. 

And I’m just myself and I’m not hiding myself in shame, he uses this.

He uses this to help other people get free of shame and hiding and to grow in awareness.”

As we grow in awareness of these things and bring it into our relationship with Jesus, it helps us immensely in our intimacy with the Lord.

Jesus Was Vulnerable Too

Bill

You grew up with the idea that you were too sensitive, too emotional, the only “feeler” in a family of “thinkers.” 

There was a lot of embarrassment and hesitation.

And it’s taken you some time to realize, well, actually your feeling self is in many ways, your greatest leadership gift you’ve got.

This incredible emotional intelligence.

But you had to come to terms with it. 

You had to bring that sensitivity— that emotionality— into God’s grace and come to accept that it’s not a liability, but it’s actually a beautiful thing.

Kristi 

Yeah. Because I also grew up in a church, and I still hear this message a lot, where it was taught that feelings are the caboose. 

That if you have emotions, then you have a problem with your thinking. 

And you need to change your thinking to deal with your emotions and to get your emotions healthy and in line. 

While there is some truth to that, for sure, even Dallas has taught some of that. 

I have also seen that “Well, no, my feelings do have a lot of intelligence to them.” 

And oftentimes they lead me very well, especially in intimacy with Jesus and connection with other people in healthy, loving ways.

And they teach me about myself. 

They reveal my pride, they reveal my temptations. 

They reveal my longings and my desires, some of which are God-given.

Bill

And this is Biblical. 

The importance of vulnerability and emotional honesty is throughout our Scriptures.

Even Jesus himself articulates many different emotions at different points of time: sadness, grief, anxiety, and all manners of stress, and frustration, and anger. 

There’s times that probably Jesus didn’t know what to do. 

So he prays and listens to God. 

And he walks something out with the Holy Spirit. 

And Jesus is a human being with a full range of emotions. 

It’s been really valuable for me to look carefully into the Gospels and see that about Jesus. 

And to study the Psalmist, and the emotionally honest faith that the Psalmist shows us throughout the Psalms. 

That faith is not just a thinking thing. 

It’s also emotional. 

There’s an integration of feelings and faith throughout the Psalms.

And so it’s very helpful to see that that really is the very essence of faith. 

Sometimes we get this idea that faith is just believing the right things about God, or just being strong and positive all the time. 

But, but really faith is like we see it in Hebrews 11.

It’s perseverance. 

It’s perseverance through difficulties, trials, mistreatment, suffering, emotional lows, as well as highs, the ups and downs of life. 

We’re trusting God in a real relationship that is authentic, vulnerable, messy, and raw. 

And as much as that’s true with God, God also wants that to be true in our relationships with one another. 

It’s why Jesus gave us the new commandment to love one another.

Being Vulnerable Can Lead to the Inner Journey

Kristi 

Well, one of the things that’s so important, what you’re saying there, is that I think the enemy uses this as a temptation to isolate us from one another, to make us think,

“You can’t share this. Nobody will understand this.” 

“Nobody else feels this. You’re alone with this.” 

 “You’re a problem.”

And shames us into this silence and into isolation. 

Then we compare how we feel on the inside with how others look on the outside. 

And because others aren’t being honest and transparent on this level, we think, “Well, there must be something wrong with me that I feel this.”

And as I’ve taken courage to not listen to that voice and not be bullied by that voice, to voice my experience, including my emotions, my struggles, my wounds, then I find other people saying, “Thank you, because I feel that too.”

“Thank you. I’ve experienced that too.”

And it gives them permission to be honest, and to be vulnerable. 

And as I do that, I see that God is using me as a wounded healer. 

We get a lot of feedback about this – we get a lot of people thanking us when we are vulnerable. 

We work through a conflict together in real time, whether it’s at an Institute that we’re leading, or on our podcast, or leading a group. 

If we have a difference of opinion about what we should do next or something. 

We work that through, out loud in the community. 

We’re honest, and we’re transparent. 

People see that, they watch us. 

And they’re like, “That is so helpful,” because most of the time we feel like we need to shut that down, quiet it down, and pretend everything’s good in life. 

So when people see us be honest and real and vulnerable, take that risk to love each other and work that through, it gives them a vision so that they can do it too. 

It gives them courage so that they can do it too.

Bill

So wounded healers articulate the inner events, the emotions, the faith struggles, the needs, the real stuff of our relationship with God and our discipleship to Jesus. 

We want to encourage you who are listening, in the power of vulnerability in all of your relationships, your life, your ministry. 

And encourage you in your journey of faith as you experience different Stages of Faith. 

Like we write about in our book Journey of the Soul, we call these the C.H.R.I.S.T. stages of faith in that book, we lay out the integration of feelings and faith at each of the stages. 

Most especially, at the “The Soul Pivot” which is The Wall. 

Those trials where God’s face seems hidden, or we’re spiritually dry, or have some sort of a faith crisis or a burnout. 

But these “Wall” experiences where we come to feeling really stuck, and sooner or later, we all hit one of these major trials, especially that soul pivot.

The power of really getting out the shovel and digging in deeper into what we call the “inner journey” or the “I” stage in the C.H.R.I.S.T. stages with Christ as an acronym.

The inner journey of paying attention to our emotions, our longings, our needs, our brokenness, our conflicts. 

And learning how to pray through, learning how to talk that through. 

That inner grace of feelings and faith is really an empowering part of our journey of the soul with Jesus that can really lead us into that other side of the wall. 

Where there is so much more to the Christian life than many of us have even dreamed of. 

And it really happens right at the spot of vulnerability and realness about our struggles.

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