Transparent Tuesday #1: Honesty vs. Transparency

Author: Bo Stern | | @bolovesjoe

Authencity is a hot word right now.  It’s hip and trendy and …hard to become.  Our mission statement here at She.ology is “Empowering women to live their place in the story of God.”  One of the reasons I love that statement so much is because I find that most women I meet are either unaware of what their story is, or looking over the fence at the lives other people are living and wishing for that.  

When we lack a clear vision of who we really are (what we love, what we hate, how we process emotions, etc.) we can easily become a facsimile of what we think we should be instead, and then we become a life-size cut out without dimension or movement or meaning.  Have you ever felt like that?  I know I have.  I’ve done a lot of work around the area of vulnerability.  I had to.   In 2010, the rug was pulled out from under my family and I was forced to be open with our suffering to a watching world.  That was the moment I discovered how much I wanted to have an enviable life before and how inauthentic I had been in my attempts to make myself and others believe I had one.  

Battling an ALS diagnosis, watching my husband die slowly, driving a wheelchair van, taking care of him for four years, all of these things helped to strip away a veneer I had built of Happy Christian Woman.  It was a painful and painstaking process, but I really like the woman I found buried underneath and I never want to hide behind my cardboard cutout again.  

One of the big questions I had to answer as I attempted to show the world the real me in the middle of real suffering was: How much is too much?  How much do I expose my doubts, my pain, my fear, my husband’s deterioration, my kids’ sorrow?  At what point does my honest story become a dangerous spectacle?  I’ve watched the exposing of truth destroy dignity and relationships unnecessarily, all in the name of “authenticity”.  I didn’t want that and I felt strongly Jesus didn’t want that for me or my family.   

Here’s what I learned as I fumbled my way through telling our story in blog posts and books and lots and lots of conversations:  

  1. Honest and transparency are two different things.  

  2. I will always be 100% honest.  I am about 40% transparent. 

  3. The decision to hold back on revealing a detail of my life is run through a quick grid:  Is this necessary, is it helpful, is it humble, is it true?  

  4. When I run it through the grid and still am uncertain, I turn to outside sources.  If the truth involves another person, I ask how they feel about my sharing it.  If it only involves me, but I feel a hesitation (I’ve learned to respect the “yellow light” in my own heart and not storm through it) I turn to one of my mentors or counselor for help.  This process has not failed me yet.  (More on the role of coaches and mentors in the process of authentic living in week 5 of this series) 

HOMEWORK THIS WEEK (Pro tip: you may want a journal dedicated to use through this five-week series - we’ll have lots of self-examination exercises and the weeks will build on one another - don’t shy away from doing the heart-work here!)

  • Write down times in your life when you have been honest, but not entirely transparent.

  • Consider: Why did you make the decision you made? Was it to cover your weaknesses or reputation? To cover someone else out of love? To cover someone else out of fear?

  • In general, do you think you are too transparent or not transparent enough? Are there any ways you feel your transparency could be hurting others unnecessarily?

  • Is there anything hiding in a corner or closet of your life about which you feel you could NEVER be transparent? Does the need to hide that thing ever require you to live less-than-honestly? Ask yourself some questions about why this stowaway has so much power.

Clearly, saying “be authentic” is easier than the process it takes to actually BECOME authentic, but it is always, always worth it.  This is going to be a great month, friends - let’s tackle this together!

With hope, 


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Whitney Parnell4 Comments