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Updated: Mar 25, 2021

I picked up a book lying on the table at work today, called When Narcissism Comes to Church. I haven't read it yet, but I skimmed through a chapter highlighting "fauxnerability:" the false presentation of vulnerability as a way to avoid legitimate vulnerability. It's when you ask everyone to be honest, but then subtly use the information you gain to harm or control them. It's preaching a culture of openness, but then not practicing it with yourself. It's confessing past sins, playing bait and switch with your audience, allowing you to reframe your predatory character into a victim's self-preservation. It's tricky and malicious.

Fauxnerability seems to be an effect of the confusing merging of church and state, or if you will: ministry and business. It's tangles up the responsibilities of caring for people and using them, showing up in many churches, businesses, and marriages.

While church and marriage should be places we cultivate vulnerability for everyone, even our human pastors, I don't really see any room for authentic vulnerability in business. Capitalism is by nature competitive, and in competition, you can't show all your cards without losing. So I am highly skeptical of any businesses (especially covert "religious" businesses) that tout openness, honesty, and vulnerability as their cultural values. I'm calling bullshit and shouting, "Beware!!!"

If you're lying to yourself or everyone else about your vulnerability, please stop. Be either a church, where people can bring their saddest stories and their ugliest shame to find GRACE and ACCEPTANCE, or own that you're a business that depends on its employees/constituents/students having it together for success. THAT is integrity—not that you pretend to be vulnerable, but that you're honest about your prudence. Don't ask your people to be vulnerable and then take advantage of their hope that this "religious" business is one of the "good companies" to work for. Differentiate between business and ministry and don't try to do both with your employees. Allow your employees to be ministered to by someone else—let them have their prudence, as you have yours.

Unsplash photo cred: Daniela Izotenko

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