“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” -Mother Teresa
We crave authenticity, don’t we? We want people to be REAL. Being able to walk alongside someone who can say, “This is beautiful, but this is freaking hard” can make things seem less scary. When your heart is hurting or you’re rejoicing a minor victory and there’s someone who really GETS it, well, it just makes it so much easier/better.
If transparency is something we all want, why is it such a rare find? Because it’s hard. It’s hard to put yourself out there and make your thoughts known. To expose your feelings is scary. When you put your heart out there and you’re met with a raised eyebrow and a look of judgement, it can be crushing. Laying my own tender feels on the table makes me cringe sometimes, but I (try) do it anyway. Because I want your honesty, I offer you mine.
I’ve learned a thing or two about honesty and transparency and authenticity over the years. Some lessons were tough so I’m going to share what I’ve learned so that maybe you can avoid some of my mistakes. You’re welcome.
Lesson #1: not everyone wants to know everything. You can free yourself of the pressure to share ALL of your opinions and ALL of your knowledge and ALL of your thoughts with ALL of the people. Seems crazy, because you’ve spent a lot of time and effort and energy reaching your conclusions and you want to save others the trouble, right? Here’s what I’ve learned: unless someone asks for your honesty, you don’t HAVE to offer it. Liberating, huh?
Lesson #2: not everyone needs to know everything. Sometimes in the foster care world folks will ask me questions that I legally cannot answer. I’m obligated to protect the littles in my care and their stories. I’m pretty much never offended by questions because I know, more often than not, they come from a kind place. That does not necessitate a revealing response though. Sometimes the most honest answer I can give is, “sorry, I’m really not at liberty to share that information”. I’ve learned that most people understand and are completely fine with that response.
Lesson #3: not everyone can handle knowing everything. When my innocent kids ask me questions, I have to be delicate with my answers. I can explain drug use in generalities but I don’t have to go into detail with the facts or my opinions. It’s ok to just leave it at “sometimes people make bad choices” without divulging all the complex parts of those decisions. I need to be gentle and age appropriate with my answers. Sometimes they push for more information but most of the time a simple answer will satisfy their curiousity.
Lesson #4: be gentle with others who are making an effort to be open and honest. Recognize how scary it is to put one’s self out there, even if you don’t agree with their stance or opinion. Acknowledge their bravery. Try to assume the best in people, especially when they’re opening up, because they are tender and vulnerable and need your love and acceptance.
Then there’s stuff I’m still figuring out (“figuring it out as I go” isn’t just a catchy blog title, it’s my life). Sometimes my authenticity is offensive and I’m not sure what to do with that. For example, in the spirit of transparency I’ll admit, I sometimes have a rather colorful vocabulary. I think a well placed 4-letter word can add a certain depth to a conversation on occasion. If that’s news to you, it’s probably because I assume it would be offensive to you so I reign it in. Also, I enjoy an occasional glass of wine. I feel confident this falls into the “all things in moderation” category (see previous post) but I know that some of my friends feel pretty strongly that any amount of alcohol is too much…so I won’t imbibe when I’m around them. Am I being sensitive or am I compromising my authenticity? I honestly don’t know so I guess I’ll just have to keep kicking that around.
Let’s all strive to be authentic and honest, ok? We are all a bit of a mess, aren’t we? Pretending it’s not the case does us no good. Paul wrote this in Ephesians: “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor…” Basically, BE REAL. It’s tough and scary but it’s so good. When you find an authentic person, thank them. And try to be that transparent person yourself. No facade, no mask, no front, just BE YOU. I’m thanking you in advance. It’s a big deal.