Monday, January 19, 2009

online meanderings: honesty

Is Archie (HT Honoria) right? Does the devil love secrecy?

Is Simone right? Does honesty normalise sin? She says

I'm thinking increasingly that it's unhelpful to talk about some sins. If I confess that I am struggling with, say, hateful thoughts, and everyone else in my bible study group says 'yeah, me too', I stop thinking that hate is such a dreadful thing. It's been normalised. Unless there is a very godly woman in my group who will take us to a passage and show us that murderers etc will not inherit the kingdom and then ask us all to repent and bring the gospel to us, nothing good has been gained.

Challenged by their posts, I wrote a couple of my own, and decided that it all depends on whether our honesty is loving and helpful, and shelved the issue in the back of my mind.

Until last Wednesday, when I read this paragraph by Paul:

You're sitting in church feeling a little more nervous than normal. If you had known that the sermon was going to be about that, you might have decided to stay in bed this morning. But there it is, front and centre on the service outline. What should you do? Thinking at a speed that would normally startle you, you hit upon the perfect strategy: talk to others about ‘it’ before they talk to you. If you start the conversation and talk about how you struggle with ‘it’ before they raise the topic, you're home free! People will think you're godly and open, and you'll be able to walk away feeling good about yourself without having to change a thing. The best defence is a good offence.

It was one of those times God uses what another Christian writes to perform open heart surgery on me.

I've often wondered why I'm so ready to share my sins and failings. I understand that honesty can be a great starting point for encouragement, and that's ok, but why do I enjoy it? I'm not talking about this blog. I'm talking about conversations like those with other mums, where among all the laughter, there are terrible admissions: "I said ... to my son the other day! Can you believe that?"

Thanks to Paul's post, I understand better my unhelpful motivations for talking about my sin. I'm hoping that if I get in first, and admit how terrible my sin can be, others won't challenge me. I hope that they'll be so busy admiring my honesty, they won't think to judge me. Perhaps they'll even share some sins of their own, so I can feel better about mine. Honesty can be a useful smokescreen to hide my need to stay in control. It looks vulnerable, but it stops me ever being really vulnerable to criticism or change.

So how can I decide when to be honest? I found Paul's suggestions really helpful (I've taken them from this discussion):

I need to ask two questions (1) Am I doing this for myself or the other? - if the answer is myself, then now isn’t the time to disclose (even if it would be genuinely helpful) - for myself includes things like my desire to get it off my chest and feel better about it, my desire to impress others by my humility, and even my desire to get people listening to my preaching because a personal story always gets people’s attention (we are so sinful aren’t we?!). (2) Will this genuinely benefit others in the congregation? (we don’t always get this right, but it is the right question to ask).
I've been reminded, once again, that honesty isn't an end, but a beginning.

images are from stock.xchng


Anonymous said...

Typically I was talking on a similar topic last night after church with a friend. we were more focused however, on the subject of grumbling... and is it okay to vent to a friend? We came to similar conclusions to yours on being honest.
So often our motivations are so buried we don't see them anymore. Thank you for this reminder to re-examine my heart. I have been thinking about Philippines 4:8 and also this talk about 'talking to ourselves' has helped me think this through too.

Simone R. said...

Yeah. Paul's post was open heart surgery for me too. How perverse we are.

I'll post my thoughts on my blog later this evening.

Hon said...


Here are a few more thoughts from one who struggles with porn:

Jean said...

Thanks, Hon, what a wonderful link. Thank you.