There are probably a number of reasons that we choose not to be as self-disclosing or transparent as we could. Perhaps the most common reason is that our pride prevents us from sharing lessons or situations where we have played a role, been less than we should be or really messed up. It is pride that causes evangelicals to wear false masks about their lives, pretending that all is well when in fact, they are struggling with significant life issues.
This is unfortunate because our lack of transparency often prevents other from understanding us, learning from us and allowing our lives to influence theirs. And it is not necessary if we are comfortable with who we are, how God made us and the fact that we are merely cracked pots (Paul’s language) that God graciously uses for his purposes.
There are several churches that I love to attend because there is a transparency among the people that is different than the norm. They are quick to strike up conversations and are equally willing to freely share their story of how they came to faith. There is no pretence or mask. They talk about failed marriages, struggles with pornography, affairs, bankruptcies, pride, relational breakdowns – and how God has redeemed them.
The lack of transparency among so many of us is a tactic to keep our dignity but in reality it hurts the very thing that we want most – spiritual influence. The reason that we go to the Psalms in times of difficulty is that we want honest faith not a fake faith. The reason we attract people when we are transparent is the same – people can relate to honest faith, real life, humanly irreparable situations but not fake faith. Thus the more transparent we are in our own lives, the more real we are to those around us and the more real we are the more influence we can have.
As a general rule, pride hides the true us in order to present an image which is better than we are. Humility (nothing to prove – nothing to lose) seeks to be who we are all the time, genuine versions of us. It is the real us rather than the false us which will be most powerful in the lives of others. People cannot relate to false personas (and usually see through them) but they can relate to real people. Further, simply being who we are means that we don’t need to manage a public me and a private me – a complicated dual persona to keep up. Just being me in the process of God’s transformation is a comfortable and honest place to live.
Since there will not be a perfect me till I see Jesus, I don’t have to pretend that there is. And being an imperfect me gives me the freedom to admit failure or sin or mistakes when they occur and simply say, “I am sorry, will you forgive me.” Those powerful words, too seldom used, bring great respect and the lack of them relational breakdown that can last for decades.
Pride, the nemesis of leaders, often keeps us from admitting our fault and in the effort to look good we end up hurting others and losing influence. It is the antithesis of a transparent life.
Another reason for lack of transparency is fear: fear that we will not look good, fear that others may not like us if they knew the real us and fear that others might use our information against us. On this last point, we clearly need to be wise in terms of what we disclose to whom. The rule is that the level of disclosure goes up as relational trust grows and we never simply disclose everything to everyone.
Think, though about messages you have heard that you really resonated with. Are they simply good theology or are they not also the disclosure of how the one preaching has personally wrestled with the theology? Truth without application is not very helpful. The application is where we most touch and understand the text itself. When I use my own struggles (funny or not) to illustrate the truth, I invite in others who can relate to my story. It happens through transparency and self-disclosure.
Self-disclosure and transparency are a choice that we make about how open we are willing to be. That choice will in large part determine how much influence we have with those around us. Transparency is really about authenticity. It is living with a commitment that we will be who we are with whomever we are with all the time. It is living without masks or facades.
It is also about an unselfish life where we make the effort to invite others into our lives, knowing that there is a price to pay for that: our time and energy. Selfishness says leave me alone – it is easier that way. Selflessness says I care about you and am willing to open my life to you.