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by Al Carden

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Mar. 9, 2016

I suppose there's a lot that can be said about the hermit crab. It is an interesting creature for sure. Growing up near a bayou in Pensacola I was privileged to find bunches of these little sea scavengers living in the shallow waters close to the shore. I would watch them as they crawled across the sea floor carrying their shells with them. If you touched them while they crawled immediately they would retreat inside their protective shelter and remain motionless until they figured the danger that had caused them to retreat had passed.

As I thought about the hermit crab's behavior it became apparent to me that there were times in my life when all I wanted to do was retreat to a safe place. In that place the pains of my present situation plus all the other painful occurrences that had simply overwhelmed me would no longer be a threat. So, just like the hermit crab, I was safe and sound deep inside the insulation of my inner world. There I existed walled off from not only those who had hurt my feelings but also separated from those who loved me.

It is an interesting phenomena to discover the paradox of vulnerability. Most of my life I ran from situations that exposed what I determined to be my weaknesses. As long as I could convince myself that I was well protected from a world bent on exposing my estimation of poor self-esteem the better I thought I would be able to cope with life. Like the hermit crab not only did I retreat but I carried such a heavy burden to boot.

Now this may be stretching the hermit crab analogy a little too far but it occurs to me that while this little creature exists within its shell its life is growing. Eventually it will outgrow its present shell forcing it to abandon it in search of a shell with more room to continue growing. Once the hermit crab is out of its shell it is fully exposed to all the dangers the sea can offer. However, it is in the abandonment of its burden that gives it impetus to survive.

Perhaps it is the risk we take to expose our suffering that gives us and others impetus to survive. Someone is watching you wrestle with living. Their observance of you may very well be offering them the inspiration they need to emerge from their retreat. I contend that our greatest strength lies within our weaknesses. So don't give up on vulnerability. There is more power there than words can ever express!