When to be vulnerable

Published 10:15 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

On May 26, 1999, more than 20,000 witnesses at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium watched me as I raised my right hand to accept my commission as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. That moment was actually ceremonial. The actual sworn oath took place days before in the company lounge with my company officer, Lt. Darryl Howell, and surrounded by my senior class company mates. I remember he read the oath and asked each of us whether we understood its words before we signed the document that was entitled “officer appointment acceptance and oath of office.” We had been given the oath to study prior to his arrival in the company lounge. One phrase stood out the most to me.

“That I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

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As I mulled over these words in my mind, I realized that it was a willing surrender to service unlike what I had experienced before. Even though I had enlisted a year earlier, these same words are not a part of the enlistment oath. That phrase begged the question whether I was ready to lead myself just as much as I was ready to lead others. And if my answer was yes, there would be no turning aside. When Lt. Howell asked whether I was ready, I raised my right hand and signed my name to accept the appointment from the President of the United States of America.

You may not have had to raise your hand for such an oath, but we have all experienced a moment of self-awareness when you confront when to really “show up” without any mental reservation. When was the last time you decided to do something that made you question whether you were doing this fully committed to bring all of yourself? If you decide to lead a team, join a team or cheer for the team, you have no idea of what opportunities may present themselves. When you commit to be present, you are committing to bring yourself at a cost. In his book, “Rising Strong,” author Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Being able to recognize when to be vulnerable in community is really answering the question of when are you ready to be courageous? It takes courage to sign an appointment letter. It takes courage to run for the School Board. It takes courage to show up for practice. It takes courage to make the good grades. It takes courage to just present you, especially when the world attacks our differences. When you commit to lead, you accept the opportunities connected to you. Believe me, there are many opportunities just waiting for you to show up.

It is my prayer that you know when the next opportunity to be vulnerable presents itself. Face it with the self-assurance that this moment belongs to you and you were called to the people and the place assigned. Next week, we will tackle the next to the last of “the Five W’s”: Where to be vulnerable?

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.