VULNERABLE: (Adjective) open to attack or damage . susceptible
Although the word vulnerable has been in the English language since the early 1600s, we might be inclined to consider it a 21st Century word because of its current popularity and varied applications, especially with regard to its meaning of “open to attack.” Also, it is often used by therapists in reference to emotional wellness, some people being more vulnerable than others to the adverse effects of stress. Moreover, vulnerable is used to describe anyone who is willing to be open and frank in sharing his or her feelings or personal failings.
But it is in a different context that I am thinking of the word. I like learning about the brain, and sometime ago I had the privilege of hearing an outstanding university professor present a discussion on “brain energy.” It was fascinating to learn about the wonderful, God-created organ that directs just about everything in our bodies. The brain is a powerful mechanism, capable of amazing feats, but this same fantastic organ, according to the professor, is vulnerable.
With the news coming out of the sports world over the past four years or so, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the brain is vulnerable, that it is literally open to serious damage. Some former football players are finding that their brains have taken a beating from their rough and tumble life in the sport. It is heartening to see that a growing number of parents, with the spotlight now shining on the brain’s vulnerability, are rethinking the wisdom of having their youngsters participate in the sport at the elementary and secondary levels.
One thing that I find most impressive about the brain’s vulnerability is that “the mind gradually adapts to the things it is made to dwell on.” This realization is sobering. When we think about some of the things people foist upon their minds—criticism, vicious social media posts, fake news, gossip—is it any wonder that some individuals behave as they do? Such things lay down tracks in the mind and work themselves out in unacceptable actions. Conspiracy theories, biases, hate speech, suspicion, and cynicism—all part of the currency of belief today— when constantly ploughed into the mind make it vulnerable to thinking that these dark, sinister influences are normal and acceptable.
Our thoughts, we are told, are the greatest single factor that impacts our emotional health. Wisdom would dictate that we feed our minds on the things that are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely (Philippians 4:8), for, as the Word has plainly told us, as a man thinks in his heart (his mind), so is he (Proverbs 23:7).
“The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.”