Are privacy and authenticity mutually exclusive?
The call for authenticity has taken up residence in yet another forum. It’s no longer the mantra just of small groups and friendship; now blog posts and Facebook status updates are required to contain some degree of personal drama to qualify the writer as being ‘real.’ It appears there’s no venue in which privacy is deemed appropriate or even important.
Does not sharing all aspects of one’s life implicitly make a person superficial or, worse, artificial?
If so, we will cultivate a culture not of genuine transparency, but one of forced – or even fabricated – vulnerability. We will feel pressed to produce struggles as proof of our authenticity, feeding a dysfunctional need to be regarded as holding the esteemed characteristic of being real. Essentially, then, we’ll be ‘sharing’ for the same reason which has indicted those who choose not to: pride.
Honesty and disclosure are not always synonymous.
The content of what we share must be truthful, but the degree to which we disclose must be honoring of God and others. We rightfully exercise discernment in choosing with whom to share and how the information will be handled. All disclosure should be honest; but honesty may not require full disclosure.
For instance, I can tell you that my past involved underage drinking (honest). But I needn’t share with you the sordid details of my behavior under its influence (full disclosure). To delineate the specifics would not honor the other people involved, doesn’t bring glory to God, and doesn’t enable the Body to minister to my needs (or me to theirs) more effectively than without the details.
Authenticity has purpose:
- Openness and candor build community. Sharing our challenges liberates us from the bondage of always presenting a perfect public persona. Our freedom then liberates others from the same shackles.
- Giving word to the victories God has enabled in our lives brings Him glory (2 Corinthians 12:9). Merely acknowledging our need for Him does the same, even if the battle still rages.
- When our struggles are shared, we benefit from accountability, encouragement and supportive prayer.
- We can minister to another with similar sufferings through shared comfort from God (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4). God’s redemption of our hardships through this shared comfort is one of His most wonderful blessings for the Saved (Romans 8:28).
Privacy has purpose:
- In choosing wisely what to not share, we honor God who isn’t glorified by our sin, but our redemption from it.
- Love demands that we protect others, guarding the reputation of anyone who might also be exposed in our disclosure (1 Peter 4:8).
- Timing sometimes dictates the appropriateness of our sharing. Jesus was always honest about His identity, but answered questions with selective information according to the fulfillment of the Father’s plans.
- When we search for a struggle to share in the name of ‘authenticity’ it’s not only contrived, but takes our eyes off of God’s goodness, as we will search for problems instead of seeking reasons for praise and gratitude. It’s okay to authentically have – and share – joy.
Perhaps the church culture pendulum has swung wildly from image- and fear-driven privacy (to the detriment of its people) to the other end of the spectrum, where exposing one’s self is not an act of confession or a plea for help, but an equally unhealthy pattern of proving authenticity through indiscriminate sharing.
Both privacy and authenticity are valued in Scripture.
We must seek to maintain a God-honoring balance. I aim to hold them both in tension so that He may (prayerfully) be glorified in and through all my speech, in keeping with Ephesians 4:29:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others upaccording to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)
How do you handle this tension?
I invite your input — please leave a comment!