You can not enjoy gratifying relationships without transparency. Transparency is necessary for both good-or-best-friend (BFF) relationships and intimate relationships, Open and honest interaction and accountability characterize both types.
Many of our folks’ generation trained us to wear masks. To hide our feelings. To keep things bottled up. We came by it honestly from our biological parents, Adam and Eve. There they both were in the Garden of Eden without a care in the world, literally! But when they fell for Satan’s temptation and sin entered the Garden, what is the first thing Adam and Eve did? They put on masks. Adam and Eve chose to wear them to cover their nakedness, their true identities. Before sin, nakedness was their natural, pure and holy state. Adam and Eve didn’t know they were naked. They were free of any inhibitions, fears, shame, guilt, condemnation, temptation, anger, criticism, and on and on.
They were free. They did not need masks.
But after sin entered the Garden and they realized they were naked, the masks went on. And we’ve been wearing them since.
Why do we think some of us feel the need to wear masks? Why can’t we be real and interact with people the way we really are? Some of us come from dysfunctional families and learned from family members that hiding our true feelings was better than facing the truth about our true identities. Many of us, as we grew up in our dysfunctional homes didn’t know our identity. We didn’t know how to feel. One of my counselors early on gave me a list of emotions and asked me to identify the ones I had experienced. I looked at the list and could tell you the definitions of what I thought each emotion was. But, at that stage, I could only pick one or two that I had experience feeling. Talk about codependent and dysfunctional!
Some of us, because we possessed extraordinary giftedness in a sport or the theater or some other activity, took on unrealistic expectations. Some parents pushed and shoved us to succeed. When the tight end on the football team bobbled the pass in the end zone at the buzzer, he could hear the collective groans from the stands. What was the admonition from the coach and dad, “Shake it off, son.” The truth was the tight end felt like a failure, alone and disappointed. What did he do? He shook it off and hustled off the field and into the locker room–wearing his “it’s okay. I’ll be okay” mask. What did his teammates say? They probably echoes the same. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll get ’em next time. It’s okay, man. The problem, for most of us was– no it’s not. Failure is a curse for many of us who don’t know who we really are.
And what about the flautist who failed to bring home a trophy for her solo at state band contest. Dad, blunt as usual, has only one comment when she arrives back home: “You should have practiced harder.” Mom tries to soften the blow by telling her she can do better next year, but daughter can see the disappointment in mom’s eyes. And the feeling of failure wells up inside the daughter.
What do we do with those feelings of failure, of disappointment, embarrassment, abandonment, worthlessness, discouragement, isolation?
Do we shove them into the abyss of our lonely, empty, confused souls? Do we become angry and kick the dog? Ignore them? Pretend those feelings aren’t real? Put on a happy face, as if nothing happened? All those responses are masks. Those fake identities we wear so well keep people out of our space, our comfort zone. Great to hide behind; lousy for solving problems or building intimate relationships.
Paul knew his identity in Christ:
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief .“—I Tim.1:15.
Throughout Paul’s epistles he is transparent and candid with his readers. He knew the value of sharing who he is, what his shortcomings and faults were, what his joys were and what his prayers were. He knew his true identity in Christ and what sharing that identity meant to his readers.
Does that mean being transparent is sharing our lives with everyone we meet? No. When I was heavily into my addiction to relationships I used to feign transparency. When I met someone I liked, I would tell them only what I wanted them to hear so they would like me. Did I share my dirt? Absolutely not. My secrets were mine. If I shared them the person I was trying to impress might not like me, or may not want to reciprocate my need for their friendship. How sick is that?
No, transparency to me means cultivating a few intimate relationships — relationships that foster humility and honesty and accountability and anonymity. It means cultivating a friend with whom you are able to pour out your heart and your deepest fears, weaknesses, strengths, hurts and joys without fear of judgment. It means being that same friend to another. It means trusting your heart to another. It means knowing that what you share will remain between you and another. It means surrendering the friendship to Jesus and making sure Jesus is the focal point of your friendship with another.
Is it easy? Absolutely not. It takes time to develop, like any relationship. A relationship built on transparency takes determination, tolerance, flexibility, sacrifice, love, humility, a servant’s heart, and, above all, the blessing and guidance of the Holy Spirit at work in both of you.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
If you ever develop relationships with transparency as an ingredient, you’ll discover some of the richest blessings of your walk with Christ. God has blessed me with three such intimate friendships with men. It has taken years to develop the kindred spirits and the transparency that bless us and we both enjoy. All three of the guys share my conviction: none of the relationships would be possible without transparency as the key ingredient. The blessings we have received from God through the years we cannot measure in earthly terms.
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