Building Through Vulnerability

Submitted by Eli Winterfeld on July 16, 2012 - 7:32am

I am writing from Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, which is a half hour west of Owen Sound.  A summer camp is a breeding ground for thoughts on community, especially one as community oriented as Silver Lake.  One thing that Silver Lake does as a staff to jump-start community building is something we call reflections. 

During our staff orientation, each evening we set aside time for staff members to share about their experiences during the rest of the year.  A safe space is created where staff members feel comfortable and moved to share openly about the joys and difficulties from the past 10 months.

This process is essentially fertilizer for relationships and community building.  I believe that being vulnerable and creating an atmosphere for such is fundamental in fostering community. 

The breakdown of community that much of our society faces can partly be attributed to the attitude of individualism and taking pride in providing for oneself.  People place great emphasis on independence, whether that be owning your own lawnmower, paying for a third party baby sitter, or hiring strangers to do the handy-work you can’t do yourself. 

Many people do not feel they can allow themselves to be vulnerable and receive help from other graciously.  I believe it takes great humility and strength to allow others to help you both emotionally and literally with your various burdens. 

With reflections we at Silver Lake open ourselves up and invite others to partake in our journeys.  We welcome support and embrace our vulnerability.  This creates a sense of trust and community that I have experienced few other places. 

Any ideas on how we can actively allow ourselves and others to be more vulnerable and simultaneously provide support for each other?


The first to be vulnerable

You are right, Eli, in how hard but necessary it is to be vulnerable and open to support. This summer I discovered something about the importance of vulnerability through dealing with very difficult family health issues. At first, I tried to support my family alone and keep the difficulties private, but after a while my mother started sharing more openly with others, encouraging me to do the same. Amazingly, through our open vulnerability, we discovered that so many of the people around us had gone through or were going through similar experiences. We were able to exchange information and support with each other, and build a deep sense of community and connection, that would have never happened otherwise. Sometimes I think it takes one person to make the first step to being open with what is going on in their lives, and that encourages others to be open in return. It takes the effort and vulnerabilities to go beyond shallow pleasantries to deep connections, which can be hard but is so worthwhile.



you are wise beyound years.

what causes us to be vulnerable or to feel like we need to be the strong one.

Why do we need not to need anyone?

Its hard to be vulnerable today

Good call Eli, I agree that vulnerability is so key to being healthy and happy.  That we need to be open to help from others and equally open to helping others.

It is difficult though because society tells us that it is to dangerous to be vulnerable and that is desireable to be independent to go it alone.  This is of course silly because no one can ever go it alone, but our society is structured in a way that hides our dependencies.  A great example is a groccery store, where we are disconnected from the farmer who feeds us.

I wonder how we can push against this, how we can create space for vulnerability.  Camp is a great place where it is happening.  How do we do this outside of camp?