For some time now I have had the topic of transparency/vulnerability hovering around so many conversations. Conversations with Josh and Jeff about the importance of friendships being two way roads. How we have experienced relationships that have been either give or take, and then they fail or stand still due to the one-way road. Conversations about what it means to be a pastor, a teacher, and a leader, but to miss out on being a learner. Not a head learner but a relational learner. Moving from pastoring, teaching and leading from up front, to pastoring, teaching and leading from along side of. All the while learning to be pastored, taught and led by others in humility. Talking with family about how not giving love is hurtful, but not being able to accept love leaves one lonely, hard hearted, bitter, and thick with pride.
Hovering around these many conversations is transparency and vulnerability. Watching the few men I grew up around, neither one of these was an option because they are seen as weak. To be transparent was NOT manly, and to be vulnerable was to act as a sissy or a baby. Most of my friendships growing up stayed in certain categories (sports, fun and light) and never left room for a detour in discussion. They were manageable and nice. Joe was the exception; we never left a stone unturned in our friendship. But that was the exception. Later on, as I began ministry, I again saw the "strong man," the leader and teacher. Standing up front, being bold and taking charge. Then came a wave of change in the church, at least from my viewpoint, where pastors were invited to be transparent. A new generation was looking for something more and people were invited to sit at a window that peered into a pastor's life. It was refreshing and it felt honest. But then... there was transparency for the sake of using an experience or a story to turn on the tears, or to pull the listener's heart strings. We've now introduced manipulation and guilt to control relationships and/or church leadership.
Over the last few years I watched one of my favorite speakers consistently invite friends, family and those who cared about him to not just look through a window into his soul, but to participate in the changing of it. Working along side him changed me, because he desired to be changed and to live in healthy community. It was the addition of being vulnerable, allowing people to speak truth into his life and to suffer with him so that there will be a bigger and better celebration in the end. I saw the difference between just letting people see your warts, and inviting them to dig down to the root with you and carve them out. If one was a greenhouse then to be self deprecating might be a window, transparency is to clean the window for clear viewing, and to be vulnerable is to open the door with an invitation to help garden. It can be dirty in the soil, it can get hot and exhausting, but the beauty on the other side is completely worth it.
Being vulnerable takes trust, honesty and has to be a two way street. It changes leaders and leadership. It grows relationships and friendships. It takes faith and commitment.