If you're advocating a transparency of character that humbly welcomes the flow of grace into every crevice and corner of the heart, I'll be standing right with you screaming louder than a crazed cheerleader. I'm all in. But if you're advocating the kind of transparency that believes nothing is sensitive enough to remain private, and nothing is insensitive enough to remain unspoken, I'll be silent.
We are living in a culture where transparency is being confused with authenticity. The resulting effect of that confusion is that being raw is mistaken for being real, and being reckless is mistaken for being resolute. The message of transparency that's being sent is founded on a destructive lie, one that is enticing us to invest far more than its promised return. It's a message that can affect a hundred different decisions we make in a day, so it's one that calls for serious consideration. As we think soberly about transparency, counting its cost is an invaluable step in making wise choices.
Public Access Diminishes Private Value
I was recently at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit when I noticed a group of businessmen staring intently at a vehicle in all its shining glory. The car was perched on a platform, and the men were transfixed enough that I was fairly certain I could prance around in my birthday suit and not offer a dot of distraction. My son agreed. "Of course you wouldn't, Mom. Not with the new Chevy Malibu on display." Got it. Next time I'll attend a car show that features an old Ford Pinto.
There was a sense of privilege those men felt in being among the first to eye the debut of a new car, a value of privilege that decreased as quickly as the value of privilege did for those given access to the beauty before it ever hit the public platform. Auto enthusiasts understand what I mean when I say that value of private privilege diminished the moment every living being, including their cat, was offered potential contact with the hood of that Malibu. This is how life works. Public access decreases private value.
I was thinking about this concept one day as I watched a young couple walking the beach. The wife was a beautiful woman clad in the teeniest of string bikinis. Regardless of what you may think about her swimsuit choice, the indisputable fact remains that it reduced her private parts to a very small territory. I remember distinctly thinking, "Awwww. Her poor husband only gets three tiny triangles to himself." I wasn't thinking poor husband because of any devaluing of her body (in that account he was rich indeed), but poor in regards to private value--value that suffers severe depreciation with that level of public exposure.
Dispensed Information Diminishes Shared Value
In marriage counseling, my husband and I spend time emphasizing the value of shared privacy. It's an integral part of fostering intimacy, and it adds strong adhesive power to relationships. Our culture of transparency has robbed us blind of this kind of relational glue by making nothing sacred enough to remain guarded, neither behind friendship walls nor marital walls. Not even the marriage bed is safe anymore. It's not just undefiled, it's unveiled. Discussions among friends about their sexual exploits within the bedroom are flowing as freely as the essential oils that saturate them. This kind of transparency doesn't come without cost. It invites people into sacred places that are devalued by their presence.
I have been beyond blessed with countless friends whom I love dearly with deep appreciation. It's a vast circle that I don't take for granted. But within that circle, I have a small handful of friends whom I particularly treasure as special gifts. They are faithful friends of integrity whom I trust enough to share the deeper places of my heart. What distinguishes these relationships from the others is the shared privacy that we enjoy, privacy that defines a treasured friendship of trust. My husband resides in that intimate circle, my best friend with whom I enjoy shared privacy flowing from the deepest level of body, mind, and soul.
In these close relationships, the value of shared privacy directly correlates to how tightly confined that privacy remains. If a close friend shares confidential information with me and specifically tells me it's being shared with me alone, that information carries significant value in our friendship. As a trustworthy friend, I'll hide that confidence in my heart and guard it with my life. If I discover that my friend has shared that information with multiple people, I will rightfully experience discomfort. After all, I was told they would not be telling anyone, and I've taken the guarding of their secret seriously. Even when I assume they had no dishonest intention and simply changed their mind about its dispensing, I still may experience the disappointment of knowing the value of shared privacy has been lost. This doesn't mean the information shouldn't have been dispensed, it just means that the dispensing came with a cost.
Unbridled Speech Diminishes Community Value
When I refer to speech that is unbridled, I'm not promoting any prideful posturing that has us feigning joy as if our fight against sin is somehow simplistically victorious enough not to drive us to our knees. What I am referring to is the kind of negative communication that is saturated with dark, depressing and disparaging speech that flows freely from an unguarded heart and unbridled tongue that defends itself under a banner of transparency.
In helping others sift through the challenges in their lives, I am often asked to confidentially read through social media communications. With young people, especially, I am being met with an increasing onslaught of dialogue that is devoid of hope, riddled with a raw transparency of struggle that ends up inflating and intensifying the lies of the Enemy. It's communication that taints the beauty of community. It's speech that discourages the hearer, diminishing the value community has in provoking each other to love and good works. It's transparency that is costing too much.
We are commanded to build each other up with our words and to encourage each other with the hope of the gospel. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (I These 5:11) But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Heb 3:13) It's an imperative that allows the love of Christ to be displayed through us even in the midst of deep pain and sorrow. When we live by an established goal to encourage others in our interactions, we will find ourselves speaking authentically and honestly about our struggles without those struggles defining the heartbeat of our relationships. When Christ lives through us, He graces us with Holy Spirit power to be real without being raw and resolute without being reckless. He graces us with Holy Spirit power to live in community as encouragers who make each other a little braver and a little stronger.
The world is buzzing with promotions of transparency. It's a marvelous and virtuous commodity, but only if it doesn't cost too much. So spend wisely. Guard your heart, cherish shared privacy, and speak responsibly.