Ok, so I vibe on vulnerability. Being vulnerable means a person has enough courage to be their most authentic self. Choosing vulnerability rather than security requires enough inner fortitude and self-esteem to trust one’s instincts. It takes real vulnerability to set aside one’s fears, and possess enough hope and faith to show up authentically, regardless of the consequences. In Susan Scott’s terms, a vulnerable person possesses a fierce capacity to “come out from behind yourself, into the conversation and make it real.“
Come out and Be One’s Self. Easy to say – challenging to live into in a moment to moment way.
I began my “coming out” process more than 20 years ago. I was married to a woman at the time. I was also a military officer in my late 30s. I had known I was gay when I was in my early teens. I hid it any way I could try. I denied finding guys more attractive than girls. I was born and raised in a devout Southern Baptist family. I was athletic and musical at the same time. All in all – it was just too scary, too courageous. I stayed in the closet as long as I could.
Ultimately the walls withholding me from being my truest self became too constraining. My needs for love and belonging were too strong. I lost a military career to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I fell out of touch with many good and loyal friends in the US Air Force. I got a divorce and became disenfranchised from family members. There were lots of nights during that time I’d rather have been dead than alive. However, I came out – I left the military and my life embarked upon a different direction. It Got Better. A powerful little book entitled Conversations with God was a huge resource for me. Neale Donald Walsch taught me, at least a little bit, to be integrated and candid with God too.
Yet, there are still times when I don’t come out to everybody. It’s not just about my sexual orientation. I don’t tell every Uber passenger that I’m an ordained Episcopal priest. I tell some folks that my primary work is as a teacher or a trainer. I tell other passengers that I’m a consultant. Those statements aren’t lies. They aren’t the whole truth either. Why am I afraid of saying that I’m a priest? Is it because I don’t want people in my car to think I’m a “fanatical” Christian? (Get in my car and let me save your soul – like your soul needs saving)? That may be it.
Maybe I’m ashamed of someone viewing me as being stupid because I’m a religious person. Ya know, business people going to work in the morning and young adults headed out for a good time on Fridays probably don’t want to hear about my religious beliefs and spiritual aspirations. Sometimes I take a chance and tell them I’m a priest. This morning, someone noticed my “collar” on the gearshift. That’s the first time since I’ve been driving for Uber, that someone noticed my collar and asked me about being a priest. What am I not willing to lose? My faith in a loving God is strong. Maybe my need to be liked or to be cool is even stronger.
I’m guessing that most of my riders would actually be less interested in my sexuality than my vocation. Nonetheless, I again second-guess myself about how and when to disclose my sexual orientation to someone who is catching an Uber with me. I get worried about my driver rating. I place too high of a degree on someone’s acceptance of my driving skills. I’m even more worried about being accepted as a person – as if I’ll always get a 5 rating on either account. It’s all really just a big ‘old mind f*c!. Nonetheless, I go through it almost every day. I’m probably my own worst critic. That’s why I need inspirational, vulnerable people around me. Coming out is really important – not only in my role as a gay church leader. It’s important to me – that I treat others and myself with a God-given sense of being blessed to be alive. Meanwhile, I continue to be inspired by talented, vulnerable people who cross my path in one manner or another.
That gets me to Jeffrey Austin. I don’t Uber on Monday or Tuesday nights usually because I’m addicted to watching The Voice. I love the show because vocalists and artists from all kinds of backgrounds with unbelievable talent get out on stage and share themselves with viewers, It takes a lot of courage every week to go out and perform knowing that you may get knocked out. You may not make it through the battle rounds. Jeffrey hadn’t performed in more than six years when he decided to audition for the program. I don’t know anything about Jeffrey’s coming out process as a gay man. I’m observant enough to know though that Jeffrey sings and lives in a very vulnerable way. He puts himself out there on stage. He shares his emotions. He’s taking a huge chance to live authentically as a musician and vocalist. And, audience members respect his honesty, appreciate his authenticity. and resonate with his vulnerability.
Wow, does he have a passionate voice! I trust he is a compassionate person. I don’t know if Jeffrey will be the last person standing at the end of this season. I know this…he’s won already. He comes out from behind the curtain every episode and puts his whole person out there on stage. No questions about someone will appreciate him for who he is. Vulnerability – Sam Smith “Lay Me Down” style. I cried for hours when Jeffrey covered that song.
Here’s what I believe is true – the world is a better place when we inspire one another with our courage, our willingness to show other people are most tender spots, our deepest wounds. We connect with one another when we create space for our hearts and well as our ears to listen to, and believe in one another. In that spirit – here’s Jeffrey’s wonderful cover of “Say Your Love Me. Cheers to the people who risk falling in love and run out of words to be real.