Transparency or Translucency?

Recently, I’ve been mulling over some things.

Okay, a lot of things.  But this one in particular:  when is sharing good, and when is it too much?

I’m not talking about sharing your crayons, or your food, or your car, or your clothes.  I’m talking about sharing your thoughts, opinions, experiences, emotions, and fears.  Everyone has people in which they confide: significant others, friends, parents, dogs…but how much is too much?  Is there a line?

For instance: there’s lots of people who have opinions on when to say “I love you” to that person you’ve been dating.  Some say, wait until you’re ready to marry them, wait until X number of months, or whenever you really feel it you should let it out.  But, saying “I love you” carries power, no matter at what point in the relationship you say it.

I think secrets can hold that same power.  Or, semi-private parts of relationships that you share with others.  Secrets shared between friends give a lot of power to those friends.  I believe it’s very important to have those friends in which you can confide: those friends also keep you accountable when you get weird.  I’ve been blessed with a great group of girlfriends I feel incredibly comfortable around: we share our fears and triumphs together, and it is so wonderful.  Having been in a place in my life where I didn’t feel like I could share things–well, really where I refused to share things–it is awesome to have that freedom once more.  And while I do not fear my secrets being used inappropriately, I wonder: do we share too much?  Is there a line?

We often joke that nothing is sacred…should it be?  Do we hurt or hamper other relationships by sharing too much of them with others?  Or does transparency keep us honest?  What happens when the person you just fought with finds out a group of your friends now knows about it?  What happens when that thing you’ve been struggling with isn’t 100% secret?  Do you get offended?  Do you have a right to get offended?  It’s your secret.  But it’s been shared among loving people, who love you too.  Does that kind of transparency make it okay?  It seems that it would still rankle, even if only a tiny bit.

But…people are built for relationships.  People are wired to share things.  We need people to lean on in times of trouble, to rejoice with us in times of joy, people to talk us through tough times, and people to love us when we make mistakes.  If we aren’t at the least translucent, we don’t have that opportunity.  By the same token, we need to express our feelings toward others.  We need to share emotions so that we may further understand them, and not keep them bottled up inside ourselves.  Even so, we are cautioned in Song of Songs, a story of a pair of lovers,”I adjure you…that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (2:7, 3:5).  We are cautioned to “Keep your heart will all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life,” (Proverbs 4:23).  We are cautioned not to declare our disagreements in the streets, but to amend quietly with one another so as not to dishonor our friends.  Where in all this do you calculate friendships, bosom buddies?  When does it stop becoming sharing and start becoming gossip?  When the hearts of those sharing shift focus from love and respect to judgement and disdain?  Even if the heart of the people still means well, does that make it right?

Internally, we all have a line.  There are things I choose to keep to myself: perhaps for only a time, perhaps for eternity.  I assume that is the same with others.  If it’s not, do those who are transparent pages of emotions need to learn to keep some to themselves?  Or do us translucent individuals need to share it all, damning the consequences?

My parents, for many years, have prayed that I would have discernment and forbearance.  I now have a vague understanding of both these terms, but I too pray for continued maturation of both.  Discernment to know right from wrong, wise from unwise, and forbearance to know when to pick your battles.  I think that transparency and translucency in our emotional lives could do from–at the least–a vague understanding of both of these.  Is it wise to share the nitty gritty of the fight you just had with your husband?  Is it right to share with your new girlfriend your moments of very strong feelings for her?  Is it honorable to share with the girls what you struggle with in your relationship?  Is it respectful to share it all?  Forbearance tempered with discernment, when heeded, provides much of this guidance, I believe.  There is a time for everything to be revealed, it’s just up to us to fumble for our pocket watches, decipher the dials, and pray that it’s telling the right time.

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