Why Transparency is Such a Big Deal in Ministry

“You make life look so easy, Kristy.”

I glanced over at the younger woman who had spoken those words to me, and offered a guarded smile. 

*Jennifer was a struggling, single mom with four little kids, and a ton of baggage from a troubled life.

Over the previous months, we had spent a lot of time together as I taught her the basics of running a household, managing money, and trying to get her life in order.

Her words settled into silence against the backdrop of our kids’ chatter in the back seat of my mini van.

I honestly don’t remember what response I offered to Jennifer that day.

What I do remember is the inner struggle of wanting to be really honest and say,

No, my life isn’t easy either.  I struggle too, and that’s okay. 

Something kept those words from leaving my mouth.

That something was pride.

As a twenty-something year old pastor’s wife and mom, I was living in the trenches of on-the-job-training.

I inwardly admitted that my life actually felt really crazy most of the time.

Finances were tough.

I battled fear and anxiety a lot.

My marriage often felt the strain of ministry life pressures.

Sadly, I had yet to learn the value of being honest with myself and owning my own limitations and struggles.

And, in some strange way, it felt sort of good that Jennifer couldn’t see ALL THAT.  

To her, my life looked perfect.  And I couldn’t bring myself to burst her bubble… our bubble, about my perfection.

I could not offer the gift of transparency.

I dropped Jennifer and her kids off at their trailer park, then drove home in silence.

Something inside didn’t feel quite right, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

The ensuring years have taught me some painful but valuable lessons.

Today, I know that what every woman desperately wants to hear is that the illusion of perfection she is perceiving is just that– an illusion. 

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It’s not real. 

Perfection is not real.

And that means that she is totally okay, since she knows that she’s not perfect either. 

Today I want to talk directly to pastor’s wives, because so much of your influence is at the mercy of your willingness to develop real and transparent relationships with people.

Here are three specific reasons why I believe that transparency is such a big deal for those of us who are in ministry.

Because Perfectionism isolates

Loneliness is one of the biggest issues facing ministry families today, particularly pastor’s wives. 

A dozen years in ministry alongside my husband have taught me a few things about loneliness and friendship:

Much of the loneliness that pastor’s wives experience is caused by the emotional walls we erect to protect ourselves.  

I know this to be true because I experienced it for many years.

Perfectionism can appear to be safe, because it hides the more sensitive parts of our lives from visibility- and criticism.

What we so often fail to realize is that what cannot be known, cannot be loved or accepted.

Perfectionism isolates. 

It is a lonely, small place to live.

Yes, transparency is vulnerable. 

And it is also the oxygen of life and emotional health.

Transparency Opens Us to Being Truly Loved

Recently, Jeremy and I enjoyed a meal at Cracker Barrel with several friends from church. 

I was sitting next to my friend, Debi, whom I noticed had ordered a side dish of apple butter.

“Oh yummy, is that apple butter?” I asked.

“Yes!  Do you like apple butter too?”  Debi responded with a big smile.

“I love it!  My Meme always made it in the fall when we visited, and her whole house smelled amazing when we walked in the door.  I can eat apple butter by the spoon full!”

A few minutes later, Debi excused herself from the table, then came back with a small gift bag in hand.

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To my surprise, she plopped the gift beside my plate.

“I bought you a little something,” she smiled.

To my delight, a jar of apple butter was nestled in the tissue paper.

Several mornings this week, my kids and I have enjoyed delicious apple butter on our toast.  Of course I always think of my friend Debi when I see that jar of apple butter in the fridge, and not far away are memories of my precious Meme.

Since “gifts” is one of my primary love languages, Debi’s act of kindness felt especially meaningful to me.

This may seem like a small thing, but I want you to “see” how sharing parts of yourself can lead to being known and loved… and even receiving precious gifts of friendship and care from other people.

Many of my friends from church know that I love tea and chocolate.  Guess what they buy me for Christmas and birthday gifts?

One of my friend’s favorites colors is purple, and I recently discovered that another friend especially enjoys white chocolate.  Guess who I think of when I see these things at a shop?

Transparency is not always about sharing the broken parts of ourselves, but also the good and the beautiful and the warm parts of who we are: 

Memories, likes and dislikes, ideas, dreams and endearments.

Transparency is simply sharing yourSELF with others. 

It is knowing and being known.

It is inviting people into the corridors of your life without pretense or expectation.

In this way, transparency is an absolutely vital part of being known and truly loved.

Transparency admits the need for grace

“Are you doing okay, Sister Kristy?”

I know when a certain friend of mine asks me that question, it’s not time for the usual “oh, I’m just fine” response.

This particular friend knows that I struggle with anxiety from time to time, and throughout the year she asks me this question.

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Sometimes I am doing okay, and other times I honestly am not.  And I ask for some extra prayer.

I am blessed to have developed friendships with several women in my life who know they can ask how I’m honestly doing, or gently tell me when they notice that something isn’t quite right.

In my younger years, I would have uncomfortably withdrawn from this kind of intimacy.

These days, I welcome it.

These friends know me on a deeper level than most, and their concern both keeps me accountable and strengthens me when I’m down.

It also reminds me how good it feels to be known, loved, and given grace.

In James 4:6, Scripture tells us,

“But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”

Humility embraces the need for grace, from God and other people.

As a girl who grew up feeling pretty self reliant, I’ve found this aspect of transparency to be amazingly freeing and even safe.

So I’m not perfect.  And that’s okay!

God knew I wouldn’t be, so He provided grace.

And He also provides, loving, emotionally healthy people to love me through the ugly parts of life.

A Few Thoughts on Discretion and Transparency.

As a pastor’s wife, I’m very intentional about what I do and do not share with others.

I believe in using discretion in sharing the details of my life, marriage and family.

I often remind my growing daughters that discretion is “knowing when to say nothing, and then what needs to be said when it’s time to speak up.”

Healthy transparency will always involve healthy boundaries.

If you’re looking for some guidelines on how to embrace healthy transparency in your life, please read Boundaries and Safe People, by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

What about you?

Do you tend to “hide” your real self? Drop me a comment + let’s talk.

2 thoughts on “Why Transparency is Such a Big Deal in Ministry”

  1. Thanks for sharing your discretion on the wisdom of speech and transparency.
    I agree with your definition of discretion — we need to keep our tongue under our sensible control and know when to speak up and keep silent and how much we reveal.
    Setting boundaries is important because talking about my life is no longer only about me but can be a very personal aspect of my family’s lives as well.
    My husband is entering the ministry as he has been studying at a seminary. So to know what I may go through, I have been surfing the blogs and found you!

    I am also glad that you have developed such relationships with other women who are caring to you. After reading about unrealistic or even unfair expectations on pastor’s wives, it is daunting. Yet, I know that God is the fair Judge. I would still like to take my husband’s calling as mine and a privilege to serve God because I will be the one who may closely serve and support the man of God as long as he searches the Holy Spirit.

    Thank you for opening up 🙂

    • Aww, I would also like to add that discreet is also to recognize who to open up to and how much to express your ideas. I pray that both of us are supported by the Holy Spirit to receive such discretion.


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