Our right to privacy is guaranteed by the constitution. Like any of our other rights as Americans we, as a culture, hold very tightly to that right. If we feel that our rights have been violated then we feel as if we personally have been violated; taken advantage of.
So the idea of unlawful wire taps, someone reading our mail (even if it is the junk mail we were going to throw away anyways), someone going through our homes, our financial records, or any other of the millions of ways that someone could put their nose were it doesn’t belong is enough to make our blood boil. We want our privacy and no one should feel they have the right to take that from us. I agree with all of this and I can say that the idea of someone going through my personal information bugs me as well.
It is because of this concept of privacy and our tendency to want to hold things back, that I think are the motivating factors in the comments from people who are amazed (Their word, not mine.) by the transparency that I exhibit when it comes to my mental health issues. Why would I want to share that kind of information with the world? Why would I put something like this online, in the mystical clouds where data never dies?
The answer for this is simple. Some things are meant to be shared. If I keep all of my experiences to myself and never let them out into the light then those experiences become wasted. I have had people tell me that something I was willing to share publicly literally saved their life. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!? Some of my worst moments in life are now being used to help others experience tremendous freedom.
But…I certainly didn’t start out this way. And I would never tell someone to just start telling everyone everything. I do know that being willing to be open and vulnerable carries a great risk. Not everyone is safe. It is because of this there are many things in my life that I don’t share with the masses. I share them with a very select few. It is my opinion that everyone should have those select few in their lives who really get to know us at a deeper level than everyone else.
So with those things in mind…in that being vulnerable offers tremendous reward and being vulnerable brings with it significant risk, how do we start to open up without hurting ourselves in the process?
This is just a partial list to get started but here are a few things to consider:
- Remember the benefits to you. No this is not all about you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t receive some of the blessings. One of the biggest side effects of sharing is the healing that you will receive by getting out from under the shame associated with our negative experiences. I have heard several times in my Celebrate Recovery meetings people sharing the phrase, “You are only as sick as your secrets.” And it is true. Once something is brought into the light it immediately loses some of the hold it has on us. It doesn’t magically make all of the harsh feelings go away but it definitely lessens the effect it has on our lives.
- Start small. Test the waters with a person you know you can trust. Share some of what you have dealt with/are dealing with. This can be both for the times when you need to get something off your chest and for the times when you think your experiences may benefit someone else. The smaller the share the smaller the risk. When you see how the person responds then you can begin to build trust.
- Do this because you want to. Don’t start sharing things with people because you are feeling guilty for keeping things to yourself. Guilt is a condemning emotion and it does not come from God. Share because you have seen healing in your life and you want to pass that on. Share because you need healing in your life and you know this is a great way to progress in that. Don’t share simply because I am telling you to. Don’t give me that kind of control over you. Share because you want to.
- Share in a safe place. As you begin to open up it may be difficult to find a place that you feel is safe. So start in a controlled environment. Talk to a therapist or counselor. With the exception of some mandatory reporting situations, they can’t tell anyone anyways, it’s confidential. And ask them to help you get used to being vulnerable in a safe way. Ask them to help you with understanding when the correct time and place is for sharing personal things.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. When people open up it can feel really uncomfortable. It goes against all those things I talked about in the beginning. Don’t feel bad if it feels uncomfortable. Don’t say to yourself, “Why can’t I be like them? They have no problem opening up.” I didn’t start out talking to thousands of people when I began doing this, I talked to one person.
- Pray about it!! God is the one who uses our stories for His glory. My words make a difference in people’s lives when God uses the words. Not because of anything I am doing. I can’t fix anyone. God is the one who works according to His good purpose. I just invite Him into the conversation.
- Remember that sometimes we get it wrong. This is ok. Sometimes we come away from a conversation thinking, “Why did I do that? I should have never opened my mouth.” I have had many people tell me that they never want to open up again because of how people reacted. While those times can feel painful, they are opportunities to learn and to grow. This is part of the process. Trust that God is working it out. Don’t give up on sharing your story because of a bad experience.
What are your experiences? Have you opened up and had it go well? Go poorly? What did you learn from the process? What did I leave off the list that you wish I hadn’t? Share your thoughts; I would love it if you opened up with me. (See what I did there? Don’t worry, I promise not to judge.)
Not ready to comment on a blog post but want to share? Shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery