Someone said something to me over the weekend about transparency and honesty that has had my mind deep in quiet thought for the past couple of days.
Transparency. Honesty. Courage. Hmmmmmm.
My cousin told me on Sunday that courage isn’t wearing a cape, running off to be some kind of hero. It’s having the guts to do what seems impossible-like walking away from something, someone, or a situation that has become unhealthy. Its being willing to take the first step when you’re scared out of your mind because you don’t know what the next one is-but you know they are steps you’ve got to take. It’s doing what others say can’t be done-like walking on water. Its having the faith to believe in something outside of yourself.
Brene Brown, (author of I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isn’t) describes courage as telling the story of who you are with your whole heart. Telling your story takes courage because it leaves you vulnerable and open to people and their opinions, their judgments. So does being transparent.
I’m learning that while honesty and transparency could pretty much be identical twins, people’s reactions to them are on opposing ends of the spectrum.
People, for the most part appreciate and value honesty but can’t deal with transparency. People pride themselves on how honest they are, often pounding their puffed up chests with bravado as they declare their right to be so, while waving the flag of “brutal” honesty.
An honest person is a respected one, because you can depend on them, they are deemed “trustworthy” and noble. “Always tell the truth” we’re taught from a young age.
If you’re honest, people might hate the truth you’re doling out, but they will respect you for it, even if you’re an a-hole about it. Even if you don’t temper it with love, that’s seen as a good thing. “Don’t sugar coat it!” We say. “Give it to me straight,” we demand. And when its given to us we accept it and how its delivered-even if we don’t agree with it or even hate it.
And therein lies the difference that causes such a disparity in people’s reactions to each. Honesty is the tough pill that we don’t always like to swallow or the truth we don’t always want to hear, but transparency’s the bullet everyone’s trying to dodge, the blanket no one wants ripped off of them when its time to get up.
Try to wade a little deeper in the honesty pool and crossover into transparency’s waters and people start getting uncomfortable, even angry in their vehement rejection of it. Somehow being transparent has become a very, very bad thing, an undesirable trait to have. “Tell the truth” we’re taught as children. But as we get older, as we collide with the humanity of others and the realities of life slowly rip and shred away at our innocence, the mantra becomes “tell the truth but don’t reveal anything more than what you have to about yourself.”
Why is that?
From my experience its because people feel that sharing too much about yourself, being too open, too revealing is too costly-transparency can make you an open target, fodder for people’s ridicule, ammunition for their arsenal when they want to hurt you in some way. Others feel discretion is best, that telling so much about yourself, your emotions, your weaknesses, or what’s going on in your life can paint a negative impression or give people the wrong perception of you. Vent about your day and you’re seen as a complainer. Take the bandages off the wounds you’ve endured through life and you’re seen as attention or pity seeking-you want people to feel sorry for and coddle you. Post a random thought on Facebook, just because it asks, “What’s on your mind?” and we’re seen as saying too much. We are constantly clamoring for our right to “live out loud” but only if its at a volume society and those around us are comfortable with. Being an emotional person or the type who wears their ” heart on their sleeve” is admirable-but in characters we see in movies or read about in books. In real-life they are seen as unstable, crazy, weak, or too much to handle. We have become a society who can swallow and digest honesty but regurgitate transparency….but then start talking about “keeping it real” as soon as we unwrap our arms from around the toilet bowl, and then go watch our favorite “reality” show.
I don’t know…while I think our culture could benefit from not being so “hidden” with who we are, I understand that not everyone is wired that way and that there is some wisdom in when and how we choose to be so….open.
Transparency is messy, risky business, and tough to stomach, but I believe it has the power to help more than harm, I really do.
People aren’t afraid to be honest, but they are afraid to be open, to be vulnerable, to lift the veil and expose themselves for others to see. And I get that. Transparency is NOT for the faint of heart. It takes incredible strength to bare weakness, to say “hey, I’m human, and I don’t always handle life very well, or I don’t always have it figured out.” And I understand the concern or the possible need for discretion as a way to protect yourself. I really do. And there are things that I do keep to myself believe it or not (I know my “friends” on Facebook are in shock reading this) But what I’ve come to realize about myself, about my life, about who God made me to be, is that my transparency is one of the things that makes me beautiful. It also makes it difficult to be my friend, my family, my boyfriend….it makes those closest to me uncomfortable-especially with my writing. I’m either loved or hated for it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been taken to task for it, told to tone it down, to hold back some, not be so revealing, even told not to write at all. I’ve been told I have no right to share what I feel and want to say, shoot my dad used to tell me he’d kill me if he caught me writing. I’ve been told by people that they hate reading my blog. (My response-don’t read it-I’m not offended-it’s just not your cup of tea.) I’ve lost friends over it, even boyfriends. But one thing I’ve learned about this is that those who’s feathers get ruffled the most by reading what I share are the ones who either have a hard time being honest and transparent with themselves, or are so knotted up in their own tangles, they hate that you can be just as tangled but have the freedom to talk about it.
My whole life I’ve been told to be quiet, never show what you really feel, voice what you’re really thinking, and I think its unhealthy and a bunch of BS….So I’m done with masking and covering up. Like honesty, tranparency comes with a price, one that is sometimes painful to pay. But the conversations I’ve had with people who were helped by my openess far outweigh what I’ve lost and will probably continue to lose.
So those are my thoughts on courage, transparency, and being honest. This is me accepting that like it or not, whether people understand it, love me or hate me for it, transparency is what I’ve been called to. Its the kind of writer I am. It’s a tool God’s given me to help others, but sometimes just to help myself.
Today I felt this fearlessness rising up in me, and I could feel the floodwaters of fear over what others might think of my writing receeding. Will this make me a target? Of course. Will people use my writing, my openess against me? Probably so. Will what I say always be accepted or even right all the time? Of course not. But I’m okay with that. And I’m okay with the people who want to take what I write and use it as ammunition against me if they have an issue with me. Why? Because what goes around comes around, and me writing about the experience will probably help someone who might have the same problem later on