"I commit adultery in my heart every single day."
The above admission came from a pastor. And while I admired his honesty, I had to question his judgment. Between close friends the confession would be appropriate, even laudable. But these words came from the pulpit. No doubt some of the men found his candor refreshing. Yet as I scanned the congregation, I had to wonder, What were the women in attendance thinking?
Or the children?
Or the pastor's wife?
Our culture extols authenticity. Gone are the days when people were satisfied with a spiritual leader who merely performed religious duties proficiently. They want to know you. They need to identify with your struggles before they'll let you help them with theirs.
But being transparent is a balancing act. Refuse to share and people see you as standoffish, inauthentic. Share too much and, like the pastor above, you risk landing in TMI territory.
So how much should you share? There's no formula (every context is different), but I like what pastor Zack Eswine calls "redemptive vulnerability." Redemptive vulnerability is not about vulnerability for vulnerability's sake. It's not about self-expression or cathartic venting. Rather it means divulging details about your life for the sake of others. It's about revealing enough to encourage them to be honest about their own sins and struggles. It's about helping them grow. As Eswine writes, it "builds up the body rather than glorifies or debases ourselves." Ultimately, it means using your story to help them become more like Christ.
Putting that into practice isn't easy. But then again, what part of leading is?
Drew Dyck is managing editor of Leadership Journal.
Copyright © 2013 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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