Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On Being Transparent

[what's brewing: would you like a dark or light roast?]

There have been so many significant comments coming through these past few weeks. I suspect I am not the only one who has enjoyed reading the many perspectives that were collectively presented by you all. I am certainly not the only one who made a connection between the discussion on transparency and the being vs. doing dilemma .

If we weren’t so convinced that we needed to do all the right things in order to be valued, surely we wouldn’t be so threatened by living transparently before others.

Certainly there are elements of our culture that teach and reinforce the belief that we won’t be respected or accepted if we are flawed. Transparency contradicts what comes naturally to us as fallen creatures – hiding. Genesis 3 reveals that the first human response to the realization of their reality was to hide. Scripture recounts many more stories of sinning and hiding, and today we are confronted with the same response in ourselves and those around us.

While a shift towards valuing authenticity may slowly be happening, by and large our culture (both secular and Christian) continues to praise perfection above authenticity – doing above being. The varied responses here on this blog confirm that vulnerability and transparency are a clearly perceived threat to respected leadership.

I think part of it is that our culture teaches us that people won't respect leadership if they see it as weak, so it is very difficult to learn how to intentionally lead a group while also intentionally being vulnerable. - kacie

In looking at the role of being transparent and sharing a burden with those around us, it seems that many people feel that the primary purpose of doing so is whether it would benefit the other person. Will they be encouraged to endure because of what I share? Will it help them to understand themselves more if I share a past burden (or a current burden disguised as a past burden)? While I certainly believe that God does use our difficult experiences to comfort others in similar circumstances (check out 2 Corinthians 1:3-5), I also believe that this is not the primary reason we are to live authentically.

We don’t simply benefit others by allowing them to see the real us – we benefit ourselves first and foremost by stepping out of the darkness and choosing to live in the light.

James tells us that we are healed by confessing our sins to one another. As I read through the comments over the past few weeks I began to wonder how many of us truly believe that statement. Do we really see ourselves as the ones who gain from sharing authentically with others, or do we see it solely as an opportunity to benefit those around us?

As I allow my "true" self to be revealed, I will not only have a greater revelation of who Christ is but I will have a much greater ability to build relationships with other believers and non-believers. – kara

What I appreciated about so many of the comments that affirmed the value of being and of living transparently with others is the acknowledgement that it doesn’t come naturally; it is a choice. We allow it to happen. Our fear of revealing who we really are is a driving force behind our belief that our DOING is more important than our BEING. We must actively fight against that if we are to build a life characterized by humility and honesty that contradicts our desire to be liked and respected for what we do well.

We begin to feel other's acceptance of us is then because of our usefulness and not because of them liking us. It leaves room for the fear, "if they really knew who I was...." – ellie

I have been challenged by the comments and discussion over these past few weeks. I’ve been pondering the reasons behind my decisions to share or not to share, to spend time being rather than doing, to step into the light or to hide in the darkness. It is no surprise to say that the primary motivation behind the latter options is self protection, or more specifically, pride. I’ve tried to envision how my life would be different if my motivation to gain approval from others were eliminated.

And I’m wondering, what would the impact be on your life if you were no longer motivated by the approval of people around you?

Think of how much longer missionaries would last on the field if they weren't having to work so hard at just being "good missionaries"! – junglewife


Kacie said...

Yay, you quoted me! :)

I absolutely agree with you about the value and need for authenticity in our lives. I wonder how this reflects our culture as opposed to other cultures? Are we more or less vulnerable? I know that in England (where my hubby grew up), Americans tend to be perceived as overly emotional and honest - the Brits are more reserved and private. We are MORE vulnerable in general. I grew up where junglewife is ministering now, and there people are quite honest with all of their emotions and - quite frankly - junk. The church, family, lives... everything can get quiet messy, but AT LEAST it's out in the open.

You know, what you wrote made me think of Eugene Cho, a pastor who blogs at http://eugenecho.wordpress.com/

I so appreciate his honesty and authenticity!

Amanda Fosburg said...

I lead a Bible study on Monday nights for international students(primarily Japanese or Korean) on my campus. Last night we studied Genesis 3, so when I saw the reference to that particular chapter in the blog today - I knew I needed to pay attention. This spoke to me directly today, thank you(all of you!).

Becky Aguirre said...

Yes, I have really, really enjoyed the last few posts and the comments...been thinking a lot about them, actually. We recently finished a discipleship class here for new members of the field discussing these same issues that really impacted me as well.

For me, I think that a lot of this goes back to my identity...am I secure in my eternal identity in Christ and union with Him? If so, then addressing areas of sin in my life will not be so threatening to me. Am I "playing God" and creating standards that I impose on myself and others, attempting to control life and others? Am I just trying to get my will under control so as to "look spiritual", while only being controlled and manipulated by guilt, shame or what others may think of me? Or am I choosing to believe God's truth about me by faith, that I am a new creation in Christ and no longer a slave to my flesh (yes, I acknowledge it, it's still there, but that's no longer my identity-that's not ME).

How different would my life be if I focused daily on the truth of my identity and my position in Christ? If moment by moment I confronted what others say or what I feel with the truth of my identity in Christ, making sure they are in alignment? Allowed time for my mind to be renewed instead of rushing around "doing" or thinking about what I am NOT "doing"?

I think that you are right, for me often the issue is pride, that of not wanting to appear to be lacking in any area. It's humbling to have to admit that I am not as mature in this or that area as I'd like to be. I was also raised in a family environment where it was considered weak or immature to admit needs/weaknesses. For some reason, the self-denial was what we were taught, not the self-care and freedom to ask for what we needed. You just did what you had to do, no matter how badly you were hurting inside. I think that mentality has done some major damage in my life!

I like what you said about transparency not only being for others, but for ourselves as well. I know for me, healing as come in many areas of my life recently as I have been able to share and talk about the darkness.

And talking about being transparent, I had to laugh at someone's comment a couple of weeks ago about whether she really didn't have time to comment or if she was subconsciously avoiding the issue! I think I relate...even now as I'm writing this post, great self-doubt is in my mind as to whether I'm "right" or "making sense"...others seem to have said things much better than I could...yeah.

And it's really ironic that the word I have to enter for verification is "ought"...so often I feel like I "ought" to be this or that, or more mature or doing more...instead of just resting in Christ my Savior and listening to what he has for me to do right now...

tschiller said...

This is the exact issue the Lord is pressing in my heart. thank you for posting! It's amazing how hard it is to overcome pride. It's a stubborn thing. I realize, however, the only road to real relationship with God and people, is to be completely transparent. To hide nothing of your heart. And, relationships are all that really matters...

Deb Heefner said...

I'm brand new here, but like what I see!! :)
I heard a great definition one time that's helped me take a closer look at my own transparency/vulnerability. Transparency is intentionally allowing people to know what's inside...my heart, my head, my life. Vulnerability is transparency +. When I'm vulnerable I'm not only letting my inner world be known, but I'm also inviting you to help me grow, change, etc. Often it's easy to be "transparent" about some struggle or challenge, but my pride still keeps you at arm's length from entering in and helping me to discover what the Lord is wanting to do in the midst of my circumstances and realities. I've found it a helpful distinction in evaluating my interactions with others, and my own heart reactions to feedback.

E. T. Tenna said...

I've mentioned my warfare against my people-pleasing tendency a couple times in my own blog. In the last few years I've seen God give me significant victories, in particular, helping me to focus on what he's given me to do, even though colleagues don't give praise points to me for it. Lol! As if I needed those praise points...

For me I think my people pleasing mindset caused me to be too transparent in some ways. I practiced vulnerability too much by opening myself up to the command of others, instead of the command of Christ. For me 'being' now sometimes means, 'don't cast your pearls before swine', or, 'you don't have to let everyone see the part of your heart that is Christ's most intimate dwelling place.

Most definitely still learning.


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