October 23, 2017

Virtue and the Limits of Vulnerability

I received some thoughtful mail as a result of my response to Mark Driscoll’s book on marriage. Here is one of the best examples:

Man Writing a Letter, Metsu

Dear Chaplain Mike,

I have just finished reading your post Top of My “Don’t Read” List. In it you mention that American culture has a strong “therapeutic ethos” and that this often finds expression in Christian circles by way of using “’vulnerability’ as an approach to ministry.”

In his book Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri Nouwen, Michael Ford notes that both Nouwen and Thomas Merton have been criticized for “never having an unpublished thought.” Indeed, Nouwen thought that what he most had to offer as a spiritual thinker and writer came out of the brokenness in his life, and as a result, he was always quite open about such things.

Now, as I know that you have an appreciation for both of these writers, it must be the case that you believe there are both helpful and healthy approaches to being vulnerable as well as unhelpful and unhealthy ones.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what differentiates a constructive from a destructive expression of vulnerability in ministry. Not only so, but I believe this would be of considerable interest to the iMonk readership as well. This is not just a matter of personal interest to me but also an issue of integrity as I attempting to work through this same issue of “vulnerability in ministry” in my own life at the moment.

Would you consider writing a post on these issues? I believe I would benefit not only from your thoughts on this matter but also from the input of those who respond to the post.

Regards,

Stephen L

Stephen writes, “It must be the case that you believe there are both helpful and healthy approaches to being vulnerable as well as unhelpful and unhealthy ones.”

Yes, that’s right. Let’s talk about it today.

I am a member of a generation (Baby Boomers) that has promoted the idea that qualities like vulnerability are key to a healthy life and relationships. The accepted wisdom is that the generations before us were “uptight” and kept secrets. Our parents and grandparents lived in a culture of “shame” that valued a respectable outward appearance, while the reality underneath was often not so pretty. Taboos were strong and subjects like sex were not talked about freely and openly. It wasn’t the Victorian Age, but it might as well have been.

But that is not all. Feelings of all kinds were not shared aloud. It was considered bad form, a loss of self-control, an admission of weakness. “Keeping up appearances” was paramount. We feared shame more than hypocrisy. We feared loss of status and the disapproval of our peers. We didn’t like drawing attention to ourselves. We hated to think that people might pity us or think we were not self-reliant.

After all, we did not survive the Great Depression by moaning about it. We gritted it out. We went to war against fascism and didn’t complain. We did our duty — it didn’t matter how we felt about it. We came home and went to work and built this country. We got married and said our vows and knew divorce wasn’t an option. And we went to church. We did not go to sit around and share our feelings, we went because we believed it was true and the right thing to do. It was part of being a good, God-fearing person. What we actually felt inside was irrelevant.

I know these folks well. I grew up among them. I have always had a healthy representation of them in my churches. As a hospice chaplain, I now visit with them daily. This is what I hear and have heard my whole life about “vulnerability.”

I remember hearing Rev. Joseph Stowell and his son Joe (then president of Moody Bible Institute) preach back to back at a pastor’s conference in Chicago many years ago. (By the way, did you notice how I named them? — Rev. Stowell/Joe. That’s the generational difference in a nutshell.) Hearing them together was a revelation of the “generation gap.” The father was formal, professorial, told no personal stories, did not move from behind the pulpit, and stuck with the text. The son started with a story about himself (a personally embarrassing one, if I remember correctly), and salted the rest of his message with heart-tugging accounts from his life, family, and ministry. He cried at one point. He talked about himself in self-effacing terms. He used his own failures as examples to make his points.

Joe’s confessional style is attractive to Baby Boomers and beyond. The revolutionary decades of the 60’s and 70’s through which we lived changed everything. That’s when we began to fear hypocrisy more than shame. What became increasingly important was that we be “real” with each other — transparent, vulnerable, willing to “let it all hang out” (yes, we really said that) and be honest about our fears and failures.

No longer content to just sit in church and listen, we joined small groups and “shared.” I recall reading how Pastor Robert Girard (who wrote Brethren, Hang Loose) literally went into his sanctuary with his elders and rearranged the pews. He believed church should be a place where people could face each other and have personal interaction rather than simply receive one-way communication from a speaker up front.

Pastor and radio teacher Chuck Swindoll encouraged us to be “authentic,” and he modeled that through his casual, personable style. You felt like Pastor Chuck was your friend, that he understood you, that he voiced your feelings.

Writers like Henri Nouwen (whom Stephen mentioned) became more influential, even among Protestant and evangelical ministers. Nouwen promoted the idea that Christian leaders serve by being “wounded healers.” It is through being willing to humble ourselves and be honest about our own failures and weaknesses that God works to bring grace and healing to others.

There is a sense in which this blog is a continuation of that tradition. Michael Spencer was known for his personal honesty and his willingness to express his doubts as well as his faith, his mistakes as well as his achievements, his feelings as well as his learning and convictions. Without that personalized style, there would be no Internet Monk.

I concur with the importance of making ourselves vulnerable in our lives. My favorite NT text about ministry is 1Thessalonians 2, where Paul writes, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us” (v. 8, NRSV). It doesn’t get any more personal than that.

However…however.

I think that the practice of “vulnerability” as personal transparency may have gone to seed. Just take one flip around the TV channels and you can see that. What are all of these confessional talk shows, reality shows, and religious testimonial programs if not examples of “letting it all hang out” to an extreme? The information age has led in many cases to “TMI.” “No secrets” has become “no limits” on the personal information some will share. Is it possible we no longer know how to value virtues like privacy, modesty, or restraint?

Vulnerability defined as “letting it all hang out” is not necessarily the same thing as serving others personally and humbly in my weakness. “Telling my story” may be more about meeting my own needs than about ministering to others. Sharing my feelings and personal experiences can be an act of humility and generosity, or a selfish attempt to put myself in the spotlight. It can keep me from listening well to what another is saying. It can prevent me from understanding my friend’s needs by keeping the focus on my own “need” to share. I may be so intent on sharing the details of my life that I fail to see that what I share about myself may be irrelevant to my friend’s situation. May story may give them a completely misleading idea about what it means for their journey.

Being vulnerable or transparent, sharing my feelings, speaking honestly and openly about my own mistakes and failures, confessing my doubts and fears and limitations, acknowledging my weaknesses, being willing to laugh at myself, shed tears without shame, admit my need for help, and say, “I don’t know” — these are essential qualities of humility and honesty. These qualities won’t look the same in everybody, they will be channeled through our individual personalities and temperaments. But they are necessary if we are to relate to one another well.

But…

Vulnerability must always be limited and guided by love. To love means to be with another and for another for their benefit. If allowing a glimpse inside my life through telling my story or sharing my feelings will accomplish that, then I should do so thoughtfully and with care and discernment. But I may be called to simply listen, ministering by my silence and presence. It may be more important for me to point my friend away from me in order to provide help. What is essential is that I am committed to loving others by laying down my life for them. But “laying down my life” does not always mean “sharing every detail of my life.”

The love that limits and guides vulnerability is a virtuous love. Sharing my life transparently with others is limited by love that recognizes a place for privacy. Certain details of life are private. Some things are not meant to be shared with anyone but kept in my own heart. Other things are meant only to be shared with those who share my private spaces. Without that, intimacy with the appropriate people in our lives is not possible.

Transparent vulnerability is also limited by love that is modest. Modesty is a form of humility that hesitates to have the spotlight on oneself. This leads to love that exercises restraint.

We read an example of this in 2Corinthians 12. The Corinthian churches were being troubled by religious leaders who were constantly “boasting” in their credentials, spiritual experiences, and powerful presentations. Paul counters by “boasting” in his weaknesses and sufferings. At one point, however, he thinks it necessary to share a personal spiritual experience he had.

“It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows — was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.” (12:1-4, NRSV)

Paul is speaking of himself here and a remarkable spiritual experience God gave him. He was taken into heaven itself! But he tells this story with tremendous restraint. Paul uses the third person and seems hesitant to talk about details. Most notably, this experience happened 14 years earlier, and as far as we know, he had never shared it before! In our confessional, tell-all age, can you imagine what someone would do to hype it if they had an experience like this?

However, Paul only shares it as a last resort to try and save the Corinthians from going astray. And, in fact, he leaves this story behind immediately and goes on to talk about the “thorn in the flesh” the Lord gave him because he had been privileged to experience such revelations. He would rather boast in his weaknesses and sufferings.

The point is, whatever Paul shared about his own life, whether incredible experiences with God or terrible sufferings for the sake of Christ — he did so within limitations. He spoke with restraint, and always for the sake of his brothers and sisters, not to put the focus on himself.

There is vulnerability and there is vulnerability. There is transparency and there is transparency. Sharing our lives must always be done within the context of laying down our lives in love.

Comments

  1. I don’t fall into either of the age groups mentioned in this piece. I’m 36, and a child of boomers. The type of vulnerability I appreciate has to do more with a person’s attitude and approach more than the details they choose to share. I’ve been at some Christian gatherings where people have shared their “struggles”, and the motivation for sharing them seems to be more to show themselves as good Christians more than anything else. It is possible to admit personal failure in an area and still be very prideful.

    As far as Driscoll’s book, I actually did read it. It wasn’t with expectation of learning anything, really, but rather simply to get my info firsthand. I’ve seen that when there are controversial books like this, everyone has an opinion, and I just like to mine straight from the source. While Driscoll does share quite a bit of detail in the book concerning his marriage (to be fair, it doesn’t get down into details I’d consider dirty laundry), there is an air about it that makes not come off as vulnerable. Actually the feeling I got from the book was that it comes off as quite prideful. It seems to take a lot of gall to hold up one’s marriage as the Biblical model of what a marriage should look like. The thought that he might be actually be wrong on some things never seems to cross Driscoll’s mind in the book.

    • “It is possible to admit personal failure in an area and still be very prideful.”

      Very true. Even our confessions can often be about managing our image.

  2. The book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light was my first glimpse in to the non-evangelical notion that you don’t have to broadcast every encounter with God as a testimony, but that some encounters are meant to be pondered, and perhaps never revealed.

    I grew up thinking that all spiritual insights had to be written or preached or somehow shared with others in order to increase the Glory to God.

    • Great point and a great post, juxtaposed with the overexposed nature of the last one.

    • +1

    • There is a great little book about Therese of Lisieux that I read in this regard called “The Love That Keeps Us Sane”. It said that one of the secrets to Therese’s spirituality was that she did not share every revelation she had with everybody. Therefore, to most people she seemed an utterly ordinary nun, not one most people expected to have deep thoughts in relation to God.

  3. Oh man. This is great writing, thanks for addressing this and thanks Stephen for emailing to provoke Chaplain Mike to write it!

    This was an issue in my marriage for a while. I was raised by an Italian mother and I think that the Italian-American culture has an issue with knowing which details should remain private and which are public. So I come from that background, and I got married 2 years ago to my beautiful wife, who is a much more private person than I. And so inevitably I would hurt her by over-sharing personal details. So there’s another qualification for you – if it would hurt your spouse unnecessarily, eschew vulnerability and don’t say it. I think that would apply to Driscoll’s book as well…bedroom details do not need to be aired in book form. Maybe I’m prudish, but I don’t see a healthy way that he can share them without hurting his wife, though they both might say otherwise.

  4. Vulnerability does have its limits and its problems. This lesson was learned by me through the school of hard knocks. The other problem with vulnerability is that often those in Christian ministry encouraging it are seldom open themselves. Many push being vulnerable and they don’t practice what they preach. And on the other extreme some become so open that they talk about it in an in-appropriate way.

    I remember one time in Crusade where a staff director was talking about his dealings with lust, while his wife was pregnant. And the way he talked about it you could tell that he was sexually frustrated. It was off key, in-appropriate and the kicker for me as that he was doing this with a couple of college aged females standing by!!! Due to the females standing around it became wholly in-appropriate. At the time it bothered me, and still does.

    But what Ed Young and Mark Driscoll have done reeks of pride and arrogance. Another problem that I didn’t see Chaplin Mike address is that when these celebrity pastors talk about sexuality and marriage and put it center stage; they continue to isolate the widows, the singles, the gays, the divorced people, etc..

    Did Mark Driscoll ever stop for a second and think of the non-married members of Mars Hill who may have been forced to listen to his take on sex in marriage? Is this part of the reason why singles leave Christianity? Because they know that they don’t have a place in it, especially when marriage has been transformed into an idol?

    But there are a couple of other problems with vulnerability. Many evangelicals don’t know how to keep their mouth shut. As such they gossip, and if you were like me, I’d bet there were a number of situations where you could figure out who is being discussed when they say at a Bible study, “I have a prayer request, I can’t tell you their name BUT…” and then they spill the beans. I’ve had a few awkward moments when I could put the pieces together in my mind and knew that I shouldn’t know this private, confidential information about “Bob” who never told me this information in private. Martha of Ireland commented a while back how my sin confession in evangelicalism demonstrated why in the Catholic church people confess in private, to people who can’t repeat the confession. When she said that it hit me like a truck.

    And then there are those who share stuff that just come out and say it without considering if people should hear it, or discuss it. Or even if they want to hear it. That is also part of the evangelical culture, and its created an environment where people just share private stuff from their lives when they should not.

    • Excellent Eagle. I agree 100%.

    • Eagle: What you said about singles response to all this stuff and many leaving the church, is absolutely true in my opinion.

    • Yep, you nailed it buddy. It’s so hard to be single in today’s evangelical Churches, when was the last time you saw a celibate pastor?. I’ve never seen one, other than widowers…

      -Paul-

      • I have a friend in the ministry who (until he married) was greeted with suspicion. The assumption was that godly, balanced people married; at the time, he was older and single.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Yet another example of “Salvation by Marriage,” AKA “If You’re Single, You’re Not Really Saved. Especially if you’re a minister.”

          I believe IMonk has covered this before.

    • Thanks for this well thought out post Eagle! Where I work many seniors find themselves in the ‘etc’ category, following the widows, singles, gays, divorced. In their later years, many, though still married, have illnesses of all kinds and severity, of one or both spouses, and they no longer have a place as very few pastors and churches understand their unique situation.

      • In the ambitious struggle to be vibrant and youthful, one can only speculate how purposeful evangelicalism will look with congregations filled with frail people in wheelchairs. Sorry for going off-topic, but sooner or later, some uncomfortable truths about the “etc.” category (disposables) will have to be faced.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Isn’t that what euthanasia — excuse me, Death with Dignity — is for? Can’t have them marring the Young and Vibrant by their very presence.

  5. Mike, this is a wonderful piece. The two rules you lay out are absolutely correct. It must be love, and it must be virtuous. Insightful thinking and writing.

  6. For those of us old enought to remember the 70’s, there was time when “having an amazing testimony” meant going into great and specific detail about how far you had fallen into the world of sex and drugs prior to meeting Jesus.
    I remember one altar-call testimony after a CCM concert where 90% of it was the guy bragging about how bad he was, leaving barely enough time for him at the end to mention that Jesus loved him anyway.
    It would almost generate feelings of jealousy, as if my own testimony was too boring to be of any use to Jesus. It was almost as if the story Jesus told was inverted, where the tax gatherer prays loudly in the temple, “I thank thee Lord that I am not like that goody-two-shoes over there!”

    • A mentor of mine in the early days of my evangelical period actually got into Bible college on the strength of his made-up testimony. They were known for their radio program and he shared it there and before the student body, then later had to go back and admit it was all a fraud. He did not do it to be deceitful, but because he thought every Christian had to have a story like that.

      • Substitute “Bible College” with “Oprah’s Book Club”, and you have a headline from a few years back.

    • For those of us who remember fundagelical ministry in the 2000’s one learns that it is still an issue. The juicier the testimony the more brownie points one had. Plus there was the “oooooh” and “aaaaaahh” factor. I’ve shared this here before but I remember driving back from a Christian concert in Northern Illinois to Wisconsin. And I remember this other Crusade leader telling me in my car how disappointed she was that she couldn’t have a dramtic testimony like mine!! I was like “what the hell?!?” It blew my mind…..

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        This is called “Not having a clue”.

        Like at the end of The Ghost and the Darkness, when after the two Tsavo man-eaters are finally dealt with at the cost of many-many lives, this new guy comes on the scene wishing he’d “been there for all the excitement” and the hunter that DID take down the man-eaters (almost becoming a kill-count statistic himself on several occasions) looks at him like he grew another head.

    • I have always wanted to tell a story about my husband and I meeting while we were in jail for drug running and prostitution. But alas, I am burdened with a family who loves me and a faith that grew slowly from childhood, with no recollection of any particular conversion experience.

      • Amen, Sister!!!

        I, too, cannot remember a time when I didn’t know at least a little about Jesus. I have tried to follow Him through the years as my maturity and insight grew [when I was about nine I thought it would be cool to live a wild and crazy life and become a nun in my old age of, oh, let’s say 50 and squeek into heaven!]. But, I was NEVER thrown off my horse on the road to Damascus.

        It does bug me a bit that those that HAVE had this sort of life changing experience think that EVERYONE has come to know the Lord the same way. Some of us have just been chugging along on foot with a single lantern ahead of us in the darkness.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      For those of us old enought to remember the 70?s, there was time when “having an amazing testimony” meant going into great and specific detail about how far you had fallen into the world of sex and drugs prior to meeting Jesus.

      Yeah. “I was immersed in a world of booze and dope and sex, which I will relate to you in great detail. And boy was it fun! But I tell you this so you can avoid the same fun-filled sins.”

      AKA ” JUICY! JUICY! JUICY!” And how many of the listeners are living vicariously hearing what has always been Forbidden for them? Just don’t expect them to extend the hand of fellowship to someone like that if he stays around once the JUICY novelty wears off — there was a reason spectacular Testimonies of that sort were associated with itinerant travelling evangelists.

    • Interestingly, this evangelical obsession with bad boys’ testimonies predates the 1980’s and 90’s white suburban fascination with gangsta rap.
      I guess for once we were ahead of the secular culture!!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It’s another form of Christianese One-Upmanship — Who Has The Most Spectacular Testimony?

      A side effect of holding up the spectacular Damascus Road conversion story as THE only type. (Otherwise, you’re not really Saved.) Itself a side effect of the Evangelical emphasis on the Altar Call and Revival preaching.

      My church, as well as most to all the mainstream and liturgical churches, counts both types of conversion story — the all-or-nothing Damascus Road and the gradual catechism — as valid.

  7. Randy Thompson says:

    It seems to me that the boundaries of vulnerability and transparency are the person of Jesus.

    Paul tells the Corinthians “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul makes his life available to others on the basis of his discipleship as a sinner called to follow Jesus. As we follow Christ, both our successes and failures are edifying for others trying to do the same. Anything else strikes me as self-display or self-absorption.

  8. I think alot of this openess and sharing feelings is, “It’s all about me.” One needs to think ahead as to how will this benefit the person one is talking with. Frankly there are alot of personal stories I have no interest in.

  9. I was astonished the first time I was in a liturgical church and saw authentic heart-worship from people who hadn’t ever come forward while the buses waited or while every head was bowed and every eye closed. They probably couldn’t even point to the date and time they were converted, so it couldn’t possibly have been authentic. They didn’t have that one cathartic event like I had. There is this revivalist tension which pits how awfully contemptible I was before versus how righteously pure I am now, and it leads to playing the Imposter that Brennan Manning speaks of. People love talking about their favorite subject, themselves. In the previous chapter (2 Cor 11) , Paul says if he must boast, he would will boast of the things that showed his weakness. Testimony time has to have been the most awkward experience I ever participated in. Everything now is peaches and cream, everyone seemed to have been “cured”, and doing swimmingly. Testimony time for Paul was quite a different affair.

    • interesting you mention Brennan Manning. now there is a transparent saint that has shared details of his flaws & his miserable failings while keeping the focus on Jesus…

      some of the things Brennan went thru cause me to wince, but he has a way of bringing the reader back to the centrality of Jesus & that divine love so glorious…

      the methods used by Driscoll & Young simply a reflection on themselves as God’s poster children for the sexually frustrated saints within earshot. as many have already posted, i would not want my marriage to be anything like theirs no matter how well-adjusted & blessed they pass themselves off as…

      it is extremely arrogant, self-serving & really outrageous they speak to a very private topic as if ‘they’ have succeeded in acquiring divine knowledge+wisdom to address said issues without any authority outside that of their own marriages. what gives them the misguided belief they can actually speak into someone else’s life about such an intimate & unique relationship every married couple experiences???

      Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Liturgical churches count both types of conversion experience — the abrupt all-or-nothing Damascus Road and the gradual catechism — as valid.

      The Evangelicals’ revivalist tunnel-vision on the first type — can you say Altar Call? — completely discounts the second. And leads to “Can You Top This?” with spectacular Damascus Road conversion testimonies. Entropy sets in, and it turns into JUICY one-upmanship, with the “before” becoming a Christianese-acceptable form of porno-log.

  10. Clay Knick says:

    Wisdom & discernment are needed regarding “vulnerability.” And yet…some things need to be private. We live in an age of TMI, that’s what I see in Driscoll and Young’s attempts at vulnerability. Such vulnerability comes across as inauthentic to me. It is false in the sense that it lacks wisdom and the trust needed to form a relationship, which is what vulnerability is all about.

    • Great point, Clay, one that should be added to this discussion. I may do an entire post on the virtue of privacy and its relationship to intimacy sometime. The media culture which Driscoll, Young and so many others rely upon to communicate creates a false sense of relationship. It’s ephemeral. There is no real connection. They don’t know us and we don’t really know them, no matter how much they “share.”

    • Elizabeth says:

      See I’m not so sure that it is not false in the sense that….well, they’re making stuff up….you know, to have something ‘vulnerable’ to share. Honestly, what woman wants a man who is intimate with her at night and writes about it to the world by day.

  11. I won’t read Driscoll’s book, but I did read your post CM. You have a way of exploring issues that leaves me with the confidence (looking for a better word!) that you have fully thought through the topic without being dogmatic. Thanks for the post, and I personally appreciate both the inspiration and conviction you provided me today.

  12. I’m a generation back from you CM, and I don’t like to open up and share my personal life. I like to be independent, in many ways it’s a trust issue, being that I have to TRUST you before I’ll let you in… AT ALL!!

    But that being said, one of the most moving experiences I had was meeting with two other men, where we shared our struggles. It was eye opening to hear them fight with the same problems that I battle with, it changed the way I looked at myself. I realized that I wasn’t so disgusting as I thought, so in an intimate setting where trust exists, openness can have a huge impact.

    But let’s not mince words, Driscoll is an old fashioned bully in a pastors position. I’ve seen his type before, it’s the classic cult of personality disorder, be like me, or you can’t be [fill in the blanks]. When you get that, and then a bunch of knuckle draggers around you who say yes to your every whim, you end up like ole Jimmy Bakker!

    No thanks… Next…

    The other side show act with bozo the clown and his significant other staying in bed for 24 hours, is a publicity stunt. And I can’t imagine HOW this glorifies Christ, or helps spread the gospel. Modern evangelical Pastors have no shame, they are happy to stand on their lighted stages and prance around, calling out all the bad things the flock has done.

    I bet singles night at that Church is a hoot!!

    -Paul-

  13. I don’t think vulnerability is a bad cultural value. It may also have place in counseling sessions and therapeutic small groups. (I do think, however, that small groups are overdone: the create pressure to disclose/perform for others.)

    The discomfort comes in when vulnerability is taken out of a context where one is sharing with a single person or limited group and trotted out as a performance, either to manipulate that audience or to shock. It is one thing for well-seasoned, older person to write a good on some very delicate personal issues. It is another to generate shock and awe in order to pitch a message.

    Likewise, there is a long tendency of ministers (playing off the therapeutic culture or just drumming up the dramatic) telling people’s “heartfelt” life stories and how they screwed something up and felt regret. These stories are either (1) made up or finessed or (2) inappropriate recountings of actual confessions from real people. Either way, the story just just emotional pornography meant to raise interest or deep feeling, just in time for an alter call or other new life commitment.

    • I also think the concept of a small group is refreshing in a cultural environment where one does not usually/always disclose personal information. This can be very therapeutic if you are at a point where you need this, and have trustworthy people to engage with.

      However, once small group confession becomes the default mode–everyone is supposed to be doing it, in company of everyone else, all the time–then it becomes something else. The constant pressure is to be vulnerable to be spiritual or personable, even when the time is not right.

      The only solution in the later case is to go fishing.

  14. *to write a good=to write a BOOK

  15. Chap. Mike: Was the definition of love at the beginning an original? I love and would like to reuse it.

    • It’s one of those summaries I’ve used many times to put together what I’ve learned from many people over the years. Use it freely if you find it helpful.

  16. Thank you for this most insightful post, and for the thoughtful discussion it has prompted. Like many others, I think one’s attitude and humility are central to an honest and edifying vulnerability. Specifically, I think we have to be humble as a result of a deep awareness of our own brokenness and weakness, as well as the graciousness of God, and an accompanying willingness to meet and come alongside others in their own weaknesses and failings. And of course nothing should be done out of self-seeking or for any kind of personal gain. These elements seem to be largely missing in approaches like Driscoll’s.