“I’m not comfortable to share this with you/everyone, but I’ll let my mentor know.”
I’ve been hearing this phrase quite often. I usually nod my head in sympathy. Yeah, it must be a sensitive issue. Better not ask too much, I think to myself, as long as someone else is helping him/her through it.
But the more I kept hearing that sentence, it struck me: Why are there so many secrets in church? Why has this become the norm? And isn’t church a place where everyone should be open with one another?
CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
I once told my leader: “I can’t tell you that unless you can guarantee me full confidentiality.” It was a promise she knew she may not keep because of her obligation to be accountable to other leaders, so she refused.
I struggled. I really wanted to pour my heart out to her, but I just didn’t want anyone else to get involved. I even got angry at her – I felt she wasn’t appreciative of my willingness to confide in her on an issue that was so close to my heart. I mean, I’m not someone who usually reveals much information about myself.
Looking back, I wonder why was I even worked up about who knew in the first place.
THE GENESIS OF SHAME
Before sin came, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. But the moment they ate the forbidden fruit, they became self-conscious about their bodies, and started to cover themselves up (Gen 3:7).
While we can take the text literally, I believe that the shame was more than just a physical one. Now, each saw in the other the sinful state. Each saw in the other the side that rebelled against God. Each saw that the other had fallen.
They were no longer innocent, but were rebels against God. Their nakedness must have left them feeling too exposed, too vulnerable.
Why are there so many secrets in church? Why has this become the norm? Isn’t Church a place where everyone should be open with one another?
Looking back, part of why I didn’t want others to know about my issue was because I was afraid of how people would view me. I wanted to be in control of how others view me. And I realised that almost everyone goes through this process of “image management”.
Have you kept your tears in, only to cry into your pillow when nobody is watching – because you don’t want anyone to see your weak side? Have you kept certain things about yourself secret, so that others will not know what kind of person you actually are? Have you ever lied to present a better version of yourself to others?
The shameful part is not just about our nakedness, but also what comes after that: How others view our nakedness.
CORRECTED IN LOVE
The unwillingness to be open is rooted in the fear of rejection. Of judgement.
But this is a huge obstacle to our growth. If we want to grow in our character and walk with Christ, we need to let ourselves be open to loving judgement and correction from others.
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. (Proverbs 8:33)
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Proverbs 19:20)
Nobody enjoys being judged. But as Christians, we need it. Not judgement in the sense of being judged – scorned and condemned – but having the state of our soul laid bare, that others may gently, lovingly rebuke, reproof and restore us.
WE NEED A SAFE HAVEN
Look at the early Church.
All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
The picture that the Bible paints is a beautiful one, where everybody comes together to share whatever they have in order to meet the other person’s needs. Struggles are known and help is provided. Support for the vulnerable.
I’ve learnt that it’s not so much about me presenting a perfect self so that I will be loved by others, but about me acknowledging my flawed but authentic self so that others can love me.
That’s what the Church is supposed to look like. It should be a safe refuge, where everyone stands exposed but remains loved. Where the shame of our sins has caused us to hide from one another other, the Church should be where the cleansing blood of Jesus flows.
No more hiding.
DON’T HIDE – SEEK
Lines are drawn and walls are built when we intentionally choose to share things only with certain people. Of course there are times we need to exercise discretion, but I’m beginning to wonder if we have taken this confidentiality issue too far.
The Church was never meant to be made up of individuals functioning in isolation, alone. No – we are called to be a body that watches out for each other. We can’t do that if there are still parts of ourselves hidden in dark places.
I know it’s not easy. I’m a private person – I still find it hard to be vulnerable about my emotions and struggles. But I’ve learnt that it’s not so much about me presenting a perfect self so that I will be loved by others, but about me acknowledging my flawed but authentic self so that others can love me.