Transparency: The Painful Truth and How We Must Be Healed
There are many people who have a need to talk about some ugly things from their past. Not to wallow in self-pity but to receive healing from the terrible things they’ve endured and to receive affirmation from us that they are not outcasts or freaks.
“A despairing person should have kindness from his friend, said Job, “lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14 NASB). Job recognized, as only a person in pain can do, that simple answers not only fail to relieve pain, they can literally drive a person further away from God. The hurting person who takes this sort of advice to heart often has two problems instead of one: the pain she originally had, plus the guilt over not being able to apply the answers she was given.”
― Henry Cloud (Changes that Heal)
When a person with a history of abuse or neglect approaches a church leader about their problems they’re sometimes asked to keep quiet about them. “Don’t focus on what the devil has done to you,” they’re told. “You are a new creature. Just focus on God.”
Such platitudes don’t bring healing or comfort to the hurting. They only reinforce what these people have already discovered—that no one wants to help them or hear about their problems. Too many leaders have no desire to discuss the abusive pasts of the people they minister to. Part of that may be because they feel ill-equipped to handle these issues. (This can be fixed through training.) The usual way of dealing with imperfections in the church is to pretend everything is okay. When someone asks how you’re doing, we put on a plastic smile and tell them we’re fine. We sweep our pain under the rug and hope no one notices it.
I wonder how many leaders would discuss their own history of abuse if they knew they would not be judged or condemned for what they disclosed. Sadly, they don’t dare bring these things out in the open, for fear of losing their position in the church or the esteem we’ve given them. I can tell you from personal experience life on a pedestal is a miserable existence.
Two years ago, I decided to publicly disclose some of the more ugly parts of my past. Later, I began discussing the emotional trauma I experienced as a child and how I was healed of it. I could not have done any of this had it not been for the loving, non-judgmental way in which my friends let me be me. Just as I am. Totally transparent.
I believe God wants to bring a much deeper level of healing to the bride that He loves. The healing that we need will require us to learn how to be transparent about the things we’ve kept hidden. We do no one a favor by hiding our past from our brothers and sisters.
The first step in the healing process is becoming a community of safe people. We must learn to listen with empathy when people share things about their past that cause us discomfort. We must learn to accept each other’s brokenness and shortcomings without judgment. And we must learn to hold the secrets others share in strict confidence. The second step is learning about the healing process. We must invite Jesus into the mess that’s been made of our soul and ask Him to heal us. The last step is helping others to receive their own healing, just as we’ve received ours.
If you’re interested in learning more about emotional healing you might check out my book Emotional Healing in 3 Easy Steps.