A meandering take on honesty, vulnerability, and courage


I hate conflict and I hate humiliation. If someone wants to have an honest conversation that would require me to say something that might hurt their feelings, I turn tail and run like a deer. I’m learning to be better, be braver – but I know that no matter how good I get at it, I’ll always have a hard time with the type of honesty called BRUTAL honesty.

I watched “The Voice” tonight, and anytime a singer would get a zero chair turn, I would have to mute the TV and look away. I can’t handle it. Heartbreak breaks my heart. And even if these people weren’t completely heartbroken, I was heartbroken.

As my sister-in-law recently pointed out, I am a professional empathizer. And maybe that’s my issue – I internalize events around me, for better and for worse.

A few months ago, I heard that an entire herd of elk fell through the ice of a reservoir in Pagosa Springs. All 20 of them were found the next day, frozen to death. I thought of their panic, however animalistic, and I cried.

A few days ago, I saw a 4-year old girl run full-force across an airport to jump into her grandma’s arms. I witnessed her beautiful and wholehearted freedom, and I cried.

I want to have it both ways. I want to block out the bad and experience the good, but that just isn’t possible. An open heart means that I accept the joy and the pain in equal measure.

I once heard an interview with J.K. Rowling in which she said something like, “Courage is the most important virtue, because it’s the only one we can’t fake.” Courage is strength IN THE FACE of one’s fear. I can pretend to be kind, pretend to be gracious – but courageous? The very definition acknowledges that we are not yet the thing that we hope to be – but we choose it anyway.

It takes courage to be honest and vulnerable. It takes courage to let your guard down and allow the world to beat at your heart. It takes courage to hear about animals dying and not want to die, or to witness absolute freedom and imagine your own self free.




  1. Peg Achterman on February 25, 2015 at 12:39 AM


  2. wac on February 25, 2015 at 1:20 AM

    I like reading your blog Annie Parsons. Thank you for not being afraid to speak truth in it. What a refreshing post as me in my car have just ticked our 1000th mile for the day. Thank you.

  3. mom on February 25, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    and sometimes, just sometimes, I read you blog and I cry. what Peg said….indeed.

  4. Sarah on February 25, 2015 at 10:13 AM

    You should watch Brené Browns Ted take on vulnerability and the other one about shame….I think it would meet you right where you are.

  5. rachieannie on February 25, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    Brutal honesty is the worst. Even though we’ve been married for 5 years, I still struggle with being completely honest with my feelings. Part of it is tact, part of it is fear that he will be mad/hurt/etc and be upset with me. Hard to be a people pleaser!

    And yes yes yes for the heartbreak! I remember watching movies or reading books when I was little, and if something happened to the pets I was just done. Of course the people too, but there was just something more innocent about the animals.

    And watching people be rejected?? Are you kidding? Why would anyone want to watch that??

  6. Anna Marie on February 25, 2015 at 11:49 AM


    I was recently doing a writing prompt that was answering the question, ‘What were the last few times you cried about?” I realized mine were all times where I saw or experienced the kind of vulnerability you describe here. Isn’t it strange that the beauty we really crave and are moved by also usually includes the depth of pain we usually want to avoid? Thank you for sharing about courage, I love the idea that we cannot hide behind it.

    There is a line in a Rilke poem which I am obsessed with right now-it is of God speaking to humanity-
    “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.Just keep going. No feeling is final.Don’t let yourself lose me.”

    Here is the whole poem, it’s given me so much courage and pause as I think about the same things you are expressing here. hope you will enjoy it: http://tinyurl.com/k9n77kx

    thanks, Annie, as always for courageously sharing your thoughts!

  7. Maria on February 25, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    Oh Annie! Did you ever see the video of Kevin Ware, the basketball player from Kansas U, breaking his leg during a game? (DO NOT VIEW IT IF YOU HAVEN’T.) When I saw that a couple of years ago I swear something short-circuited in me. I became obsessed with making sure Kevin Ware was ok. I almost wrote him a letter. I cried a lot. It was very strange.

    Also, when I was a kid, I wrote a letter to the actor who played Mr. Andrews in “Titanic” to tell him I thought it was very noble of him to not get in the life boat and that I felt really sorry for him.

    I don’t know what makes me (and you) this way but I’ve come to really like it about myself, even though it’s debilitating sometimes and makes me feel like I might be a little bit crazy. My husband always says he’s jealous because he sees it as me just experiencing life really, really deeply.

    Embrace this part of you! It is lovely.

  8. Michael on February 25, 2015 at 5:08 PM

    And then I read your blog post. And I cried. You SO are my sister. Much love, open-hearted friend.

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