“Connection is why we’re here,” says author, researcher, and storyteller Brene Brown. Human beings are hard-wired to connect with one another and to find life’s meaning through relationships. What unravels connection, or prevents it from emerging in the first place, is when shame and fear prevent us from being open, authentic, and vulnerable.

Those stories we don’t want to tell because they’re about failure, or inadequacy, may be hiding behind a façade of failure-lessness—a façade of extreme competence. Sometimes people whom others would describe as incredibly competent or even gifted fear (perhaps in an un-admitted inner core) that others would dislike them if they only knew the “truth.” This deep-seated and hidden sense of shame can keep us from revealing our full selves to others.

The lack of authenticity at the heart of an unwillingness to be vulnerable is exactly what defeats the true human connections that make life meaningful.

Brown’s research says that the feeling of belonging and being loved is linked to a sense of worthiness—the feeling that one is worthy of love and belonging. This sense of worthiness arises when we’re able to tell the full story of who we are. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone does and says things they later regret. It’s when we share the full story and discover that people love us anyway that we develop a sense of worthiness.

Telling our own story without editing out the less-impressive, the inept, and even the villainous parts takes courage. Opening up like that makes us vulnerable (to criticism, to rejection) and that’s where shame and fear can enter. Fear of criticism, fear of rejection, may make us want to edit out those less-than-rosy parts of our story.

Vulnerability may not be comfortable. It’s aways a risk. Yet it’s what makes love and belonging possible.

To be willing to extend love and compassion to others begins with being compassionate towards oneself. No one is perfect; perfection is too much to expect of anyone. The most meaningful and important connections in life begin with vulnerability and a lived and loving compassion. Vulnerability is, perhaps, an active form of compassion. To be gentle with one’s own flaws and to make that self-gentleness visible is an offer of gentleness and compassion to others.

It’s an offer of love and belonging, whatever the un-edited story may be. Vulnerability says: “Don’t be afraid of telling me about your authentic self. I can love the truth of you.”

This open-heartedness is a gift both to the one willing to be vulnerable and to the one invited into that open heart.

Here, in this loving religious community, may there be connection, meaning, and the generous company of open-hearted people. With hope for the future, Rev. Jaye