Into a darkness unknown: why “being vulnerable” is not enough

Chris Nye
9 min readJul 21, 2021
The first photographic image of a black hole from NASA (April, 2019)

“But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults…”

-Psalm 19:12

“I said that I thought most of us didn’t know how truly good or truly bad we were, and most of us would never be sufficiently tested to find out.”

-Rachel Cusk, Outline

Vulnerability has become my generation’s greatest virtue. To be able to articulate your own weaknesses, in an appropriate but compelling way, is seen as a necessary character attribute for spiritual growth. As a leader, I am keenly aware of what is expected of me whenever I speak, write, or share in any setting: be vulnerable. Share your struggles. Tell us about how you’ve been hurt, how you’ve suffered, how you’ve experienced something difficult. Vulnerability — the sharing of personal information that exposes you and puts hidden things (especially inadequacies) out in the open — has become a requirement for Christian life and leadership today.

This, for the most part, is a truly wonderful thing. I am a better leader not when I perform a kind of deceitful perfection, but when I lead out of an honest assessment of my weaknesses. Studies and writing performed by people much smarter than me or you have proven this.

At the heart of “vulnerability,” for Christians, is acknowledging our sin. Our faith teaches us that sin is the primary defect of human life. Sin is both the wrong we do and the reason for the wrong we do wrong. As followers of Jesus, when we are “being vulnerable,” we are admitting our sin — the places in our life where we are at rebellion with God, either actively or passively. Vulnerability is scary because it names us as the sinner we spend so much time pretending we are not. Perhaps a more orthodox way of talking about vulnerability is saying this: when we are vulnerable, we are confessing our sins, and confession is necessary in any Christian’s life (James 5:16, 1 John 1:9).

But even with an increased sensitivity to vulnerability and confession, why are our churches the way they are? Why are we the way we are? Still struggling in our sins, repeating the same habits, destroying relationships, and having difficulty making sense of what to do next? Why do leaders who share from stages their “sins” still fall and…

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Chris Nye

Living in Portland, Oregon with my wife and son. Doctoral candidate at Duke University. Author of a few books: chrisnye.co/books