How Honest Is Too Honest?

Sharing is nice

Being real isn’t easy. It isn’t commonly practiced. It isn’t valued.

Yet some folks have the idea that it’s becoming too common and we need to be careful about being transparent. They don’t agree we should promote more honesty and openness.wreath

Make no mistake, there is a battlefield over vulnerability.

“…but once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” – Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

So what are the real folks supposed to do? Hide themselves? Restrict how honest they are for the sake of those who don’t understand?

This is a real question. Especially with the new online frontier where everything seems to be free for all and no one seems to hold back in their critiques. It isn’t safe to be your true self anymore.

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Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Source says, “Vulnerability has almost become a Christian virtue, and they often desire to create ‘viral’ content to get noticed and increase their platform.

Certainly, people do this, even Christians. But is it following Christ? The commission was not, “Come, follow me, and I will get you noticed and make you well-respected.”

Not that that stops many Christians from believing it.

Some will be authentic within reason. They’ll only get personal up to a point, yet talk about Jesus very openly.

Others will set a looser boundary on personal honesty, but never even mention Jesus’ name. They’ll be blasted for not taking a stronger stand for Christ. But others will love them for being “so real.”

There are many points between these 2 extremes, but Christians seem to identify more with one or the other. So who is right? How honest should we be?

Sure some make a platform of their faith. And the Christian market loves it. Yet others merely strive to live by the principles Jesus did—humility, honesty and putting others first. Is one better than the other? Both are callings. Aren’t both equally valid? We all must decide our path and let others decide theirs.

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One blogger recently shared about her experience telling a police officer about her grandfather molesting her when she was young. She says, “I called my sister, Aimee, and put her on speakerphone. We were all crying. Aimee, I said, He’s writing it down. He wrote it down. We said, This happened to us, and he listened. He WROTE IT DOWN. I cannot begin to tell you how powerful that was.

When we express our truth and someone listens to it and affirms it, we are liberated. How honest is too honest? Maybe the question is, How much truth are you willing to live?

Will the haters kill you? Do you fear the scorn of the critics more than God? Sure, there are bad people out there who want to steal and hurt and take the love, joy and peace you’ve found. Will you let them by silencing you?

It’s always easier to walk away. When something’s difficult, it will always be easier to get up and go see what there is to eat in the kitchen. While waiting for inspiration or courage, we need grace for ourselves and our ordinary fears.

But eventually, it’s clear what we have to do, isn’t it? The process of honesty is the most important part. To practice patience and to wait for all that won’t come easily, this is the work. Especially when it causes pain. It will always be easier to bury it. Everyone knows this. It’s easier not to feel it but that’s what the world does. They numb it and stuff it down.

Well, maybe being a Christ-follower means being different. Maybe we had no choice to get wounded, but we have a choice now how to respond. And maybe we have no choice but to live through what he allows, but by his grace we have a choice now and this is it.

And I, for one, will respond.

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So what if some people use their stories to try to get famous? Can we do what’s not easy and use our vulnerable truth to help others?

Practicing discernment is critical. But shouldn’t we always aim for complete honesty in what we share? Not that we disregard restraint and decorum. We must wait and take enough time to heal before publishing, or we’ll face more trouble.

Unresolved pain makes us think and do many bad things. Such unexpressed and unhealed pain created this dangerous world we live in. And our pain-shattered world will flame you in their unresolved pain. The words may hurt.

But will it make you live afraid to bare your true, honest soul?

Who will listen before they speak? Who will preserve dignity and yet risk vulnerability to share their intimate selves? Who will work through the initial blindness strong emotion always causes, to get free of the impulse to spew unconsidered exposure? Common emotion, anger and anxiety, leads to oversharing, but when the truth is finally expressed, it will be seen for what it is: immortal, eternal, indestructible.

There are but a handful of critics. But there are entire nations who need your raw, unfiltered honesty.

Why shouldn’t we accept that that naked truth must be fought for to be expressed?

It’s true: the most personal stories are the most universal. As writers we must realize, our silence means someone else may not fully live.

And what if that someone is first yourself?

Here’s the truth: writing for any reason other than to share who you really are is worthless. And who you are is a worthless mess except for love. I’m only able to see because of the love I’ve been shown. Life’s pains have prepared us to bear the burden of sharing our truth.

So share it. None of us is deserving of love, so embrace the rebukes and disrespect with humility. You have everything you need; you are completely provided for. Oh, you’re not deserving. But you’re worthy. Because He has said so.

Believe it. And choose to do the harder thing.

Derision or accolades change nothing. I am who God says I am: loved.

And that’s all the honest truth I need.

Mick

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9 thoughts on “How Honest Is Too Honest?”

  1. Mick,
    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I have been thinking lately that “authentic and vulnerable” isn’t the end of the spectrum. There’s a point beyond that.

    The past few weeks I’ve been realizing how I’ve committed idolatry–and the thing I have propped on a pedestal and bowed down low before is my own grief.

    Could that be? Or am I nuts? (Or both?)

    Thankful for you, Mick.

    1. I’d humbly suggest that it is possible to put one’s own grief on a pedestal. Recognizing that and moving on to the next step of opening your arms and your story to embrace and share the universal griefs and triumphs of others is the trick you (we) may (must) be always in the process of mastering.
      Thanks to both you and Mick for the reminder. Reminds me to check my pedistals.
      Also reminds me of what we’ve been taught: we receive comfort (encouragement, bits of wisdom) so that we can in turn resonate with, comfort,(“normalize” the pain and anger, free others up to acknowledge their woundedness and subsequent healing)–ie “pay forward” in kind. (I Cor. 1: 4& 5kinda, sorta)
      Breath-taking boldness & honesty, Sheila! Something to remember for all of those who have been wounded and now feel compelled to share the “comfort,” etc we have received (as you are).
      (Sorry if I sound too much like a shrink.)

    2. That’s a deep thought, Sheila. But not crazy. How many people can’t talk about their grief? I’d think it’s much rarer to find someone who can and who has slowly worked through it enough to help someone else with the story. You know the truth, that God goes with you when you invite him. He’s waiting to be there with you whatever you find.

      Thanks for the kind words, my friend. Praying for your words.

  2. Thanks for that perspective, kathleensplace44Katie. Yes, checking for emotional idols is a good thought. And no worries–we’re all “shrinks” in this work of finding the truth he’s embedded in our experiences–at least those of us willing to do the hard work and humbly receive comfort. I’m hopeful I’m finally learning.

  3. Were you reading my mind? I just went to the NCWA Tech Conference and much attention, for good reason, was placed on blogging. Writing books is easier for me because I can be an expert. I know how to be an expert. I’m trained to be an expert. But writing blogs is personal, it’s living room conversations, it’s tearful confessions and choked prayers. Or atleat, that’s what I want it to be. You wrote, “We must wait and take enough time to heal before publishing, or we’ll face more trouble.” That’s true. The last thing I want to do is bleed on my readers. It’s better to let them see the healed scar so they don’t feel compelled to fix it themselves, or feel burdened by my unhealed pain.
    Motivation is key for telling our stories. I’ve wanted to vindicate, glorify, and exonerate myself before in my writing. That’s some yucky reading, right there. :)

    Thanks for posting Mick. I desire is to be expertly vulnerable. It is to balance expertise, vulnerability and righteous motivation… God help me.

    1. And he will. Dont be in a rush to publish. Im hearing all the time the advice to “ship,” i.e. follow through on delivering your work and finish. Mostly thats true–we need to push forward and get our words out there to help others. But we also need patience and prayer and an honest assessment of our motives and current state of healing. If we feel too “passionate” about getting it out there, it may be that we’re looking for validation where we shouldn’t be.

  4. “Follow Me and I will make you famous…” No.
    But He did say He would make us fishers. And there is that need for bait.
    And we do serve the God of all comfort. We ache so we can be conforted. So we can comfort.
    And comforting wins hearts.

    Loved this.

  5. Thanks, Katharine. Good, comforting thoughts. :)

    Holly, it’s a good dance with fiction, isn’t it? The more honest, the more real the characters become. They’re always just extensions of ourselves and what we’ve experienced, the people we’ve known and relationships we’ve learned from. Many times, I feel I can be more honest in fiction where I don’t have to admit uncomfortable things about myself or my family. I can put them in a story. I tried to write for fiction authors as well here since I write that too. I think everything I said here should still apply. Let me know if you have specific questions or see something that needs application? Thanks for reading! – M

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