I have been pondering transparency — by which I mean reducing the number of walls and hidden rooms in one’s life — integrating the various aspects of the self — and being up front, real, straightforward, honest — not having different masks or selves for different occasions.

(To my friends who are multiples, I am not talking about your kind of situation. Although I think it’s interesting that I can talk about my singleton self in language that can also be used of multiplicity.)

Sometimes I think that absolute transparency is the ideal — being the same person to everyone in my life, whether they understand and respect me and know and love me well or not.

Sometimes I think that healthy boundaries includes the idea that some hidden rooms, some thick walls, are not only necessary but good and wise — that not all relationships must include the same level of transparency from me.

Other times I think it is wrong or hypocritical of me to share some things with some people and not with others.

Other times I think there’s a difference between healthy boundaries and hypocrisy.

Sometimes I think I have just about mastered the art of being transparent with everyone and yet being intimate with hardly anyone. Sometimes I think that is good — it keeps the peace — it’s me being real. But sometimes I think that is bad — what matters in relationship is the heart, the actual closeness, not how much I’m willing to share with my words, how much I’m willing to let people see me.

So I still have massive walls — they’re changing from brick to glass, with remarkable clarity in some places — but they’re still walls.

One of the risks of transparency is ridicule, hatred, judgment, shock, or other forms of rejection.

Another risk of transparency is that people might take it as an invitation to intimacy (is it?), and I might not want to be intimate with those people, even if I think I should be transparent toward them.

I want to know more how to go about my life — how to be integrated and real and straightforward at all times (maybe that doesn’t always mean 100% transparency in all situations), how to develop and maintain healthy boundaries (does that mean limiting transparency at times?), and how to have real intimacy where I want to (if I really am allowed to choose), at the level I want to (again, if the choice is allowed).


10 thoughts on “Transparency

  1. Marcy,

    This is a thought provoking post.

    I don’t think one needs to be open with everyone, for some are not worthy of such trust. This is for self-protection rather than a form of deception.

    It’s good I think to long for transparency; what a burden it is to hide who we are! I think of Jesus who was certainly transparent, in the sense that he had nothing to hide–yet he didn’t go around baring his deepest thoughts and feelings to one and all. He knew what was in man, knew the fickleness and self-centeredness of the human heart.

    I think we do get to choose with whom to be intimate. I didn’t use to think this though, and it caused all sorts of troubles in my life. I confided in the wrong individuals, I was very vulnerable and gullible. The answer is not to build more walls, perhaps, but to be discerning enough to allow only the good in.

    A verse that always helps me is to “be as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove.” I got the dove part right but it took me a long, long time to remember that first half of the verse!

  2. You must have a tired brain to do such heavy duty thinking. I have always been a “what you see is what you get”, “I am who I am” person and sometimes I get hurt. I am not really gullible so that helps and I don’t have/need a host of friends. God knows me and loves me anyway.

  3. I like this post a lot. I think healthy boundaries include limits on transparency, depending on who you’re dealing with, and the degree to which you trust them with you. I do have a sliding glass door in my house…but most everyone comes in & out through my front door. Some are allowed to walk right in but most have to knock first…and for some I won’t answer.

  4. Beauty,

    I too used to be far too trusting, and it took me a long time to learn the lesson that I am not always wanted and not always respected — but I embraced the other extreme too tightly, I think.

    I like your description of Jesus as hiding nothing but neither divulging everything.


    Yes, the little brain gets tired often.


    I like your extended metaphor.

  5. I think healthy boundaries are important. So agrees the Christian therapist I saw. Have you read the Boundaries books by Cloud and Townsend? They are really good.

  6. Joe (my recently-deceased Christian therapist) also is big on healthy boundaries, and especially tried to work with me on the difference between the Christian obligation to love our neighbor (doing what is appropriate to the situation) and our freedom to choose our friends and follow our affections.

    Haven’t read those books, but have heard a lot about them.

  7. Me, I’m more of an all or nothing person. Either I claim completely up and say nothing, or I spill way too much information. Generally, I tend to be more closed up, in real life at least. Online, I do find it easier to be more transparent, although I often regret the times I open myself up too much.

  8. Missy, sometimes I waffle — sometimes I think I am healthier or wiser or better in the times that I open up more, and wish I could do that more consistently — other times I wish I’d been able to keep my mouth at least a little more shut. I think maybe I believe that (some) boundaries are almost a necessary evil, but that if I were truly secure in Christ, I could loosen many boundaries without being hurt. Not that I necessarily approve of this belief, more just that I’m noticing that this belief seems to exist in me.

  9. I have a problem with “letting people see me” too. I would be so much happier if I could let myself be seen so that people would know what my mind is like, if we are “like-minded” or not. I spent 27 years with a wall between myself and the world and it was so lonely. If you are judged, hated, ridiculed, etc., it is not because of anything about you, it’s in the eye of the beholder and speaks more about their problems. Being comfortable with yourself and at peace, radiating peace and love and acceptance, is the place to try to be (yeah, I do have trouble practicing what I preach, but at least I know where I’m trying to get to).

  10. Kitty, I am still learning that other people’s perceptions of me might not have any basis in me, but might be all about their response. I don’t want to be the kind of person who always dismisses others’ opinions because I think I can never be wrong or bad — but I need to come a little away from the opposite extreme of thinking every other person’s opinion must be true and must mean I need correction along the lines of their opinion.

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