by Jonah Mudse
Have you ever felt safe enough to share some kind of emotion, experience, or pressure that you were feeling? Whatever you wanted to share, you knew it was one of the hardest things to share with anyone. If you’re like me, you probably shared it with someone you’ve developed a strong relationship with, and you trusted them that the outcome of sharing this feeling would be ok. You trusted you would feel supported, and you knew you needed that support.
The space between yourself and your person was filled with richness and depth that allowed for true authenticity and the comfort to share openly, “This is me. This is what’s real for me right now.”
This interaction, feeling safe to share something difficult, is what it means to be vulnerable.
Our fraternities and sororities are incredibly special incubators that craft just the right environments for our members to be safely vulnerable with each other. In fact, our organizations are only operating at our best when a surplus of vulnerability and support is available to every single member.
In some shape or form, all of our organizations ask our newest members to embark on a journey of growth. To strive to be better each day than they were yesterday.
This journey is not limited to members, of course, but brotherhood, sisterhood, and siblinghood are undoubtedly the most effective, inclusive social support systems. In those moments when people fall short on their journey, their ability to be vulnerable and be met with kindness determines their capacity to continue on. This is the gift of fraternity and sorority I so deeply believe in.
As we all work to share the gift of our organizations, I want us to remember that every potential new member deserves vulnerability and authenticity from us before they are offered the chance to accept this gift (and all of the responsibilities that come with it).
If we can’t build the depth of relationship needed for vulnerability, if we can’t fill the space between our members and potential members with the type of richness and kindness needed for vulnerability, then we are taking away their right to a real choice. No matter our situation, we have to get to a point where we can say, “Hey. This is us. This is who we are. We’d love for you to join us and help us get to where we want to be.”
This could include…
… being honest that you’re graduating more than half of your chapter in the next 3 semesters. You’re not alone; COVID had a similar impact on chapters just like yours all across the country. Being vulnerable here means showing potential members how much work it’s likely going to take to turn the momentum and get back to a high-performing chapter.
… laying out the expectations of membership. If we can’t be vulnerable enough to say that it costs this much time, talent, and treasure to accept this gift of fraternity and sorority, then how can we expect new members to stick around after they find out what they actually said “yes” to?
… expressing real emotion. Being able to reveal your personal hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows will lead to meaningful connections full of great conversations and lasting relationships.
These examples of vulnerability in the pre-membership process will lead to the strongest versions of our organizations you and I believe in so much, the kinds of organizations that allow, support, and encourage their members to become the best version of themselves. Don’t get me wrong, vulnerability doesn’t stop there. Developing and maintaining an environment for our members to be vulnerable is one of, if not the tallest orders our student leaders are asked to take on.
In what ways has vulnerability (or a lack of) impacted your experience with fraternity and sorority? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!