Thursday, March 15, 2012


NOTE: This is one of those blogs that is more of a questioning rant. It isn't written as "writing" per say, but as thinking on cyberspace as I wrestle with this issue.

Transparency. We want it but don't know how to get it. I hear this over and over again in the church setting. Some of us desire to be real and to be open about our struggles but feel that there just isn't a way to get there. This has me pondering what are the obstacles to transparency.

What does it mean to be transparent anyway?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says that transparent is:
a : free from pretense or deceit : frank b : easily detected or seen through : obvious c : readily understood d : characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.

In effect, being transparent is about being open and honest about who we really are. This, more often than not, includes sharing the things that get us down. The things that bring us to our knees. The things that make us wonder if we are the only ones.

When we can't be transparent we feel isolated. Shut off from community. Shut off from acceptance. And even shut off from God.

There have been times in my life when all I really wanted was a good bartender. You know, the person who pours you a stiff drink and then lets you unload your burdens on the bar for a spell. And you can know that he won't judge because
he has heard worse, much worse. That is when I came up with the concept of God as the ultimate bartender. But I digress.....

What makes it so hard for us to be transparent with one another? I think that if we are going to be able to achieve the sort of openness and honesty that enable us to bear one another's burdens, we are going to have to identify the things that make us shy away from this type of true sharing of ourselves.

In my experience, I have run across two (OK, three) major responses that send me packing and back to my Island of Misfit Toys. The first is condescension. The pat on the head. The coo of "oh, don't feel that way" or "you shouldn't say that". MY TRANSPARENCY IS NOT AN INVITATION TO YOUR CONDESCENSION.

The other is perhaps more common and comes in so many varieties. This is prescription. "You should", "you just need to"......Nothing makes me want to slap somebody across the face like hearing a "you just...." at the beginning of the sentence. Some advice in and of itself is good (praying, for example), it just may be that the person being transparent isn't asking for advice at all.

Advice comes in all sizes. Spiritual advice: "You must bathe yourself in the word." Dutiful advice: "You must make a nice home for him and make sure you are having plenty of sex." (Did I really just hear you say that?) Health advice: "You've got to go see this Wise Woman Wanda at Greenlife and get these herbs that will fix all that ails you." (I'm sorry, but dreadlocks do not qualify someone to mess with my hormones.)
Sometimes someone just wants to know they are not alone. They may want to break the silence of pain or abuse. They may just want to know somebody is there to walk this road with them. Prescriptives aren't helpful. In fact, they often shut down any transparency at all.

And finally sometimes, sometimes, you are open and you are met with silence and a deer-in-the-headlights sort of state. I once shared my testimony with a group of people in a church we attended in Atlanta. Nobody ever spoke to me again. It was quite odd. In my experience, testimonies were a great way to learn about somebody and see the ways God had worked in their life and to find out a way to connect with him or her. Sometimes nothing hurts so much as being met with silence.

What is wrong with just saying to the burdened soul "I can see this is really hard. I am here for you. I don't know the answer but I am willing to go with you to the Throne of Grace and seek God's mercy and grace with you. I need it, too." Something like that would go a long way toward helping someone feel, not like a freak of nature, but more like a broken and hurting child of God who is not alone in the world after all.

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