The first person to call me transparent was a spiritual counselor I sought out when I was having a crisis of faith. I didn’t take it as a compliment. I had just bared my soul, laying out my struggles with bipolar, a troublesome marriage, conflict in my church. He watched me with an expression of concern and bewilderment. Then he smiled and said, “You are SO transparent.” He might have been affirming me, but this isn’t how it felt. It felt like a put-down. Like I was too childish to contain my emotions. I wished I could take it back. But it was out there. One of the costs of transparency.

Fast forward to today. I was sitting out on the deck with my wife talking about writing a blog post. I mentioned I was weary of promoting my book and feared my readers were as well. She said I should listen to what people say about me. Like what, I wondered. “People feel validated and affirmed when you put yourself out there. They feel less alone.” One of the benefits of transparency.

I then turned to a friend who is going through a hard time, battling depression. He said one thing that prevents him from sharing his problems is that people will misunderstand. Feelings are hard to convey and many people don’t get us when we talk about them. People try to fix us instead of just sit with us in our sadness. We can wind up feeling more lonely than before we tried to open up.  This is one of the costs of transparency.

So now, I sit here on my comfy cozy couch listening to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” and I think of people in my life who are sad, fearful, frustrated. People living on the edge. My heart bleeds for them. This can be debilitating, and is for some with a high level of empathy. I used to get physically and emotionally sick when someone shared problems with me I couldn’t fix. Then I turned to prayer. People have come to expect this of me. It is what I have to offer. I am a good listener and even better prayer. People trust me and entrust me with the needs of their hearts. When I lift these up, I too am lifted up. This is one of the benefits of transparency.

I’m intentionally leaving out any judgement about whether the costs of transparency outweigh the benefits or vice versa.

What do you think?