What is the secret that draws people to us or us to others? There is no one thing but there are a confluence of practices that matter. One of these is the practice of transparency where others are invited into our lives in authentic ways that allow the real us to rub off on others.
I am by nature a fairly private person who thinks before I talk, usually responds in a measured way even in tough conversations and am not overly verbal. Over the years, however, I have chosen to become far more transparent to others than I once was. It has been an intentional shift based on my conviction that transparency with others is a powerful tool not only in the development of deeper relationships but in developing deep influence.
The most powerful influence is that of life on life where who we are rubs off on another influencing who they become. The guiding factor in that transaction is the ability for them to really know and understand us. Without the ability to see into our hearts, minds, priorities and relationships, the real us remains hidden and mysterious to others. They may see something they like and respect but what lies behind the image they see remains opaque and hidden.
Opening our lives to others is much like opening our home to them. It is an invitation to come in, make themselves at home and commune as friends do. I may think I know someone well but actually being in their home changes the equation because I see how they interact with family, what books they have on their shelves, and all kinds of interesting things that one would never know without being with them in their home.
The same is true with our lives. Opening our lives to others lets them into the real us, and in doing so, whatever God is doing in the transformation of our lives becomes a point of connection in the lives of others – for us and for God and therefore for influence. I have tried to model that openness in this book in sharing my own story in leadership with its failures, lessons, disappointments, and growth. In the end, most will relate far more to the real issues of life than to theoretical principles of leadership.
It is really quite amazing how open and transparent Paul was in his letters that make up the New Testament Epistles. He shared His failures as well as his successes, and one is often able to read his emotions as he writes.
Disclosing a thorn in the flesh, for instance that God chose not to remove is a pretty personal piece of information – especially when he explains that it was to keep him humble and dependent. He was not afraid to share his spiritual journey including being caught up in the seventh heaven where he received a glimpse of God. Or, the pain of opposition from fellow Christians who tried to build their ministry by hurting his.
His goal of finishing the race well, and desiring intimacy with Christ are laid out for all to see. The spiritual lessons he had learned along the way are shared as an encouragement for us. Lessons like “I have learned to be content with little or much….” He learned this truth in the real life he lived and freely shared it with us.
We often read Paul’s letters in a theological manner, looking for the theological truths to be found there. And with reason, as Paul was the consummate theologian of the New Testament. But, try reading his letters as letters of self disclosure where Paul intentionally and openly shares his life, emotions, dreams, struggles, and even failures and you see a person like you and I straining to live out the call of God, become the man of God and embrace the power of God – bearing his heart and soul with great transparency.
Think of how dry his writing would have been if it were simply theological truths devoid of real life struggles or emotion. How true this was of David in the Psalms where he shared his heart openly and sometimes we don’t know what to make of it (the imprecatory psalms). The very reason we run to the Psalms in times of difficulty is that we find God’s presence there in the middle of real life challenges.
Even the God of the universe, throughout the Old Testament chose to reveal His love, anger, frustration, joy or sorrow over the people of Israel. Over and over in the prophets He opens His very heart to us so that we glimpse not only His Holiness but the range of emotions that lies behind His love. We see this in the life of Christ in the Gospels where a real man (and real God) was disclosing about Himself in a way we would never expect God to be and many times are not ourselves.
It is in that disclosure of Paul or God that we are able to relate, understand and are challenged to respond to them. Their self-disclosure becomes a magnet to draw us to them, hear what they have to say and respond to the challenge they give. Their transparency draws us into their hearts, minds and message.
Of course the most amazing self-disclosure came in the form of the incarnation when God broke into history in the person of Jesus Christ so that we could know and understand God. For our purposes here it is enough to consider the lengths that God went to in order to disclose Himself to us, knowing our spiritual need. As Jesus has called us to the same ministry as his (John 17:33) it goes without saying that as we make the same effort to live transparently with others and make our lives accessible to others that we, like Jesus, have an amazing opportunity to influence others for Christ. He disclosed God to us through His life. We disclose Jesus to others through our lives.