Embracing Vulnerability

The Praxis of Spiritual Leadership for Social Change

When we partner with social justice organizations, our role as chaplains, whether we are doing one-on-one or group work, is often to support people in practicing critical self reflection in order to become more authentically themselves as leaders.

In social justice work, it is easy to get into a comparative state: "I am 'less' vulnerable than the people I'm serving, and therefore, I should push away my own vulnerability in order to do my work."

The challenge is that this approach ignores - and even works against - a belief in our interdependence. If we do not see or embrace our vulnerabilities as fundamentally connected to the shared vulnerability of being human, then we miss the opportunity for solidarity with those living on the margins in our social justice work.

This is why Still Harbor teaches embracing vulnerability as a leadership practice for social change throughout all we do. There are two specific tools that serve as the foundation of how we teach the practice of embracing vulnerability:


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1. Spiritual Anchoring: We support participants with contemplative workshops that help them define and engage the beliefs and values that anchor them in a sense of their own inherent worthiness and in a sense of interdependence with all humanity. This approach is derived from the research of Brené Brown that suggests that when we believe in our inherent worthiness, we are more able to embrace vulnerability.

What do you believe in that allows you to embrace your inherent worthiness and the inherent worthiness of all people?

2. Leadership Practice: We support participants in practicing vulnerability using theories of leadership like Authentic Leadership in our workshops. Participants are encouraged to open up in ways that stretch them to reflect upon and share together their stories, values, motivations, and ways of sustaining themselves.

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What can you reflect upon and share about who you are that allows you to practice embracing vulnerability in this moment? 

Download this excerpt from one of Still Harbor's workbooks to explore how connection, solidarity, and leadership for social change is vulnerable work.

We all need motivation and resources as we seek to embrace vulnerability in our lives


To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.
— Peter Senge