Our family finally bit the bullet and purchased a high definition, big-screen television, and ordered the HDTV packet from the satellite company. We gathered around our family room for the ultimate viewing experience. We gasped in shock. Not because of the dimensional image jumping off the screen, although that was sweet, no, it was the raw humanity that surprised us. Those actors had wrinkles!
Just as high definition television illuminates the blemishes and imperfections of those appearing on screen, living a high definition life can expose both our strengths and weaknesses. We all know how to put on various masks depending on the company we keep. After all, we know what certain people expect. As a student I’d never admit to others my feelings of apprehension regarding my future career. As a mom, I avoided topics that pointed out my failures and frustrations as a parent. Hey remember I’m super mom. And at church, I was the “good Christian,” never admitting to the sins I struggled with on a daily basis. But it’s what I look like when I’m alone, without the masquerade, that my true self is revealed. Real transparency occurs when I am comfortable being me, flaws and all, no matter what environment I find myself in.
Living a transparent life can sound quite scary. We never know how people are going to respond to the real us. What if reality disappoints? Yet, hiding is not an option for the believer, says Dr. Gary Thomas, author of Authentic Faith: The Power of a Fire-Tested Life. Eventually the jig is up. Our God loves us too much to allow the charade to continue.
“As we read Scripture, we see that God is in the business of revelation; secrets become known. That’s ultimately for our own good,” says Thomas. “This isn’t always a supernatural process however, as in a moment of exposure, but sometimes it’s a slow, ‘natural’ revealing. If, for instance, a guy secretly indulgences in lustful patterns of behavior, it will ‘leak out’ in the way he looks at women, and talks to and about women. It may not happen overnight, but what we do in private eventually shapes our public character and pronouncements.
“Likewise, a woman who thinks critically of her husband will eventually speak critically of her husband, even though she’s appalled, in theory, by gossiping. Jesus couldn’t be clearer: out of the heart flows our deepest sins. If we persist in these sins, out of His mercy God will often reveal our secrets so that we can be healed.”
But oftentimes most of us would rather remain sick than face the exposure of a transparent life. We feel trapped, desiring a confidante, yet terrified that honesty will cause those we value to permanently lock us out of their life. Still, Thomas believes that being true to self holds greater benefits than we could ever imagine.
“There is tremendous freedom, more freedom than most people could fathom, when somebody truly knows you and all your ‘stuff’ and still loves you and respects you. There is incredible peace. When I live transparently, there is no fear of exposure or shame, there is a ‘lightness of being’ that results from not having to juggle a lie or keep bases covered.”
Thomas goes on to explain that even though people may disappoint and friendships fail, refusing to live an authentic life separates us from the one relationship we can always trust.
“I think the biggest pitfall is distance from God; when we lie to people, we offend the God of truth, and that will create distance in our relationship with him. We lose many teaching opportunities. Instead of learning from our sin and developing lessons that can be taught to and applied by others, we spend our energy and thoughts trying to cover up the truth. How can we speak the truth when we live in constant denial of the truth? We are kept in sinful patterns of living.”
So what does God say about living a transparent lifestyle? In Proverbs 28:13 we read, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy (NIV).” And in James 5:16 we are exhorted to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (NIV).”
But it’s the example of the early church in the book of Acts that conveys the impact of believers who are willing to live in transparency. “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power(NIV).”
It appears that living a transparent life does more than heal the sinner, it creates a revolution; proclaiming that our God is able to reconcile men to Himself through the death of His Son; and by the power of His resurrection set free the captives to live an authentic and fulfilling life.
Thomas believes it’s time for believers to wipe off the grease make-up and allow others to see that there’s a real human being underneath, with God-given gifts and fleshly struggles. Besides he says, “I have enough energy to be transformed or to cover up, but not both. It makes far more sense to work at changing than to work at covering something up.”