“Mountains create powerful bonds between people. Its their great appeal to me.” -Bear Grylls
I don’t get to climb many mountains at all. To be honest I think I have only ever climbed one, Snowdon in Wales, but I did it twice for what it’s worth! The first time I did it as a young teenager with my family. My young sister at the time (9 years younger than me) had a real struggle – but thanks to perseverance and a lot of Kendall Mint Cake she did it.
The second time was, as part of my Bachelor Party last year, with group of 5 other lads. For one guy it was his first experience of Wales. I don’t want to be boring and tell you all the details because, apart from one of us struggling a bit with Asthma halfway through and some great conversations, it was largely uneventful. But I agree with Bear Grylls that it did create a bond between us, and enabled us to ‘let loose’ for the rest of the weekend.
As I read that line in Bear’s autobiography I began to think about metaphorical mountains that bring people together. Whether they are the extreme highs of life, shared with friends, or the most painful parts of life.
I really like to project a strong image of myself, someone who gets up early; exercises regularly; reads a lot; plays an active role at church; appears to be a “good Christian”; studies hard etc. However I know my deepest friendships are the ones where we have climbed up the mountain of vulnerability together (or down it). We have shared our weaknesses, our fears, the depth of our sin together, seen each other at our worst (not just when life circumstances are bad, but when we’ve behaved so badly that most of the world is just disgusted!). For me, this is the mountain that truly “creates powerful bonds between people”.
There are tonnes of reasons why we may choose not to make ourselves vulnerable, Gordon MacDonald explains some of them:
- The ability to engage at intimate levels is affected when, in moments of high trust, we are humiliated or betrayed.
- Intimacy is affected when we are brain washed into believing that we must go it alone and trust no one.
- The ability to be an intimate person can be affected when nothing in our present experience matches the past.
- When someone we love turns against us.
I don’t agree that we need the same level of “nakedness” with everyone, we have all been hurt at some point because of this. However:
How we deal with these stories [our own struggles, and reasons for backing away from intimate friendships] and how we decide to seek healing of wounds that have caused us to build walls around ourselves may be among the most important decisions we ever make. – Gordon MacDonald
Intimacy must be built on trust, however trusting often requires risk. I am glad to have friends whom I can share my innermost thoughts, and know that they still accept (and even love (in a brotherly fashion) me). We have begun the climb up Vulnerability Mountain together, and we are building a strong bond as a result.
One more thought: I also believe intimacy and vulnerability are crucial ingredients in our task of Discipleship! If we disciple by only showing our strengths we encourage those who follow, to also hide their weaknesses. But the Bible teaches that it is in our weakness that God is glorified (2 Cor 12:9).