I've recently read about the differences between "weakness" and "vulnerability." I've always believed them to be the same. I have felt to be vulnerable is something to avoid at all costs. The book, "Daring Greatly" is causing me to change my perspective and I immediately thought of TDKR and this scene concerning fear.
Vulnerability: capable of being wounded; open to attack or damage
Weakness: the inability to withstand attack or damage
In Batman Begins, Wayne states he is frightened of bats and wishes to share this fear with his enemies. His encounters throughout the film (i.e. fear toxin) makes him realize he is vulnerable to the fear toxin. He sought to minimize his weakness against his enemies but understood/acknowledged his vulnerability.
In The Dark Knight, Batman meets the Joker. The Joker frequently uses chaos, fear and vulnerability against society. When Rachel dies, Wayne is grieving and pushes himself to become invulnerable. He believes this will reduce his weaknesses. Alfred even counters with:
"Don't you think there might be some casualties?"
Alfred understands no matter the situation there are vulnerabilities. At the end of the movie, The Joker succeeds in cementing Wayne's belief he must become completely invulnerable. "Batman has no limits"
In The Dark Knight Rises, Wayne states has no fear of death which he mistakenly believes makes him more invulnerable. Wayne has, like most of us, misunderstood the difference between weakness and vulnerability.
Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness and can be your greatest
strength. “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the
courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the
outcome. ... Everyone is vulnerable, no matter how much they try to
The doctor in the prison tells Wayne this. I replaced "fear" with "vulnerability" to demonstrate this point.
Doctor: You are not vulnerable to death. You think this makes you
stronger? It makes you weak.
Doctor: How can you move faster than possible? Fight longer than
possible, without the most powerful impulse of the experience? The
vulnerability of death.
Wayne has fought to be invulnerable. This has made him weak in reality. Climbing up and readying himself for the jump, Wayne finally understands/accepts his vulnerability. Without the rope, Wayne is forced to acknowledge he is capable of being wounded; open to attack or damage. He learns the difference between weakness and vulnerability.
Weakness stems from a lack of vulnerability. When we don't acknowledge
how and where we are tender (vulnerable), we are more at risk of being
There is a conversation between Wayne and Blake(Robin) concerning masks.
Batman: If you're working alone, wear a mask.
Blake: I'm not afraid to be seen standing up to these guys.
Batman: The mask is not for you. It's to protect the people you care about.
Batman is teaching Blake the difference between vulnerability and weakness. Strive to be strong and harden yourself against weakness. But never at the expense of acknowledging vulnerabilities. Always respect and understand them.