It is a pretty natural human response to avoid situations of vulnerability. I suppose it’s most drastic in those instances of physical threat, or at least, most visible. Sensing that flirting with the edge of the cliff might trigger a launch into thin air, we avoid the edge. Having heard that snake bites can be rather painful and sometimes fatal, we tend to vacate the immediate vicinity when we see and hear a rattlesnake in close proximity to what was formerly our intended path. Not only do we seek a different path, we might even seek a different woods, national park or planet.
This sort of aversion seems quite reasonable to me. Not being an adrenaline junkie, I have no desire to free-climb a two-thousand-foot cliff face, go BASE jumping or run with the bulls in Pamplona. I suspect that a widely-shared avoidance of the risk of significant physical injury is a key to the survival of our species.
On an individual level, we often heed the same sort of self-preserving instinct when it comes to emotional vulnerability as well. Whether from painful past experience or insightful observation of others, we realize that opening ourselves up to sharing inner glimpses of our psyche carries a certain level of risk. On the other hand, like many of our natural instincts, this one also carries a risk of undesirable side effects.
Fearing judgment and rejection, we avoid self-disclosure. Without self-disclosure, close relationships are impossible. Ironically, it is our fear of this vulnerability that often leads us into isolation. Afraid of the sharp pangs of rejection, we endure loneliness, accepting its dull, constant ache as alternative to the other. We miss out on multiple opportunities for mutual satisfying and even gratifying relationships. Acquaintances could become friends. Colleagues could become companions. But under the guise of being too busy, we choose the safety of distance and detachment.
When we make such choices in full awareness, we knowingly accept the consequences. Too often, though, we make such choices without that awareness. We end up cursing our fate, bemoaning our existence and frustrated by life’s seeming unfairness with no realization that we have become our own enemy.
I have known both hurts in my life, rejection and loneliness. While both have led to some share of hurt, some degree of pain, I must acknowledge whenever the villain has been loneliness, it has nearly always been me behind that mask. Those who would have friends must show the willingness to run the risks, take their chances and learn to dance with others who know that most fears shrink when we dare to take them head on.
Perhaps in our emotional adventures, we should spend more time imagining the possibilities of success. Our Savior came to this world fully knowing the degree of rejection that He would endure. But He came anyway, so that we could have the choice of knowing Him.