Transparent, candid, forthright, frank, open, unambiguous, obvious, understandable, out in the open…
I think of myself as pretty transparent, even though the only one who completely sees through me is God. I believe in being vulnerable and honest, what I’d like for people to be with me. Many friends and some strangers who have read my blog posts over the years have told me the reason they like to read them is because they can relate to what I’m saying, to some struggle I’m describing, or some flaw I’m bemoaning. It’s a connecting point for people to feel someone else has been in their shoes, is questioning something, or is having problems – they’re not alone.
Opening up is risky. One time I was venting some frustrations (and probably held grudges if I’m really being honest) about a congregation where we served and some of the people who caused trouble there. I was a little too free with my thoughts and emotions because I offended someone who had once attended there. They saw my blog (oops) and let me know. Humbling to say the least! Perhaps there are some feelings or thoughts that are better spilled out only into God’s hands.
I think there are varying levels of transparency, depending on the situation and the people involved. I can be completely transparent with my sister, my mom, and a close friend or two and know they won’t judge me but will listen and love me no matter what. That’s a blessing! I don’t suppose everyone has people like that they can trust.
What keeps us from opening up? Fear of being rejected, fear of being judged or thought of in a negative way, fear of not being liked, fear of our reputation being “tarnished”, fear of appearing less holy than we want people to think we are. I’ve learned that for the most part, those fears are worth the risk because opening up makes a way for more intimacy in relationship. When I hold myself back from someone or from God, I’m denying a deeper level of closeness that could be. I want truth and trust from my friends. I would be hurt if they only told me good words, or good things and never shared hurts and questions. I would feel as if they were holding me at arm’s length, denying me the chance to be there for them, pray for and with them, and love them.
Sometimes we use the excuse, “I don’t want to burden you” but really we’re saying “I’m not willing to risk telling you what’s really going on.” John and I have found out in past ministries that someone from church had surgery or had been in the hospital but didn’t know until they were already home and recuperating. We would say “How can we support, pray and be there for you if you don’t tell us what’s going on?”
I recently had an opportunity to be really honest with one of my daughters. It was humbling, it was hard, but I believe God used it for both our sakes. We were at a weekend youth event and I was having a talk with her because of some bad attitudes she was displaying, causing some trouble in the group. She stood with arms crossed listening to me reprimand her. I decided to bare all to show her that we all have bad attitudes from time to time. I told her of a woman I met that weekend who was socially awkward, hung around me a lot, was too much in my personal space, and was someone I was trying to stay away from. Well, at the food court in the mall during a lunch break I was sitting by myself and saw her coming my way. Instead of asking her to sit with me, I turned toward the wall and kind of hid myself. When I got up a few moments later to leave, I saw her a ways off sitting all by herself and God pricked my heart. “You could have shown love and you chose to be selfish, just because it was more comfortable for you. You were thinking of yourself and not that woman.” As I told this to my daughter I began to cry. I told her I wasn’t proud of my choice and that I had to ask God for forgiveness. As I confessed to her, my heart flooded with peace. Then I noticed she was crying a little, too. Her heart seemed to soften, we hugged, and she told me with sincerity that she was sorry for her behavior and would do better. And she did.
Just lay it out there. James 5:16 says to confess our sins to each other so we will be healed. It is freeing. It brings peace in the long run. We can have a more intense sense of relating and understanding one another. The end result is definitely worth it. Hopefully at this moment, you can see right through me.