Yesterday, I called attention to slant33.com, acknowledging that I had a vested interest in the web-site. Yesterday, they also published my first posting on the site. (I knew it was coming, just not when…)
Along with Adam Mclane and Tiffanie Shanks, I was asked to respond to the question How do you determine the line between vulnerability and over sharing? Below is my take, please check the site for Adam’s and Tiffanie’s responses
Saint Francis of Assisi is often credited with the saying, Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words. As Christians, we probably cannot really be too vulnerable or even over share—except when we begin to unnecessarily speak aloud.
My mother is not an overly emotional person, yet there is one rare moment when I know she will likely quietly shed a tear or two. When we gather as a family and sit together at church, she will likely inaudibly weep in thanksgiving that we are together and that others are missed. As my children now become adults, I find myself experiencing the same. No words are needed, just the openness of tears shared.
We all understand the power of being present when we witness a birth, baptism, or wedding and sharing in the joy. The same power is there in moments of loss and grief. It is even there when we accompany others in a shared experience at a work camp, conference, or just a cup of coffee. No words needed, just the sharing in being present.
And yet, sometimes, we choose to use words. So how do we determine that very thin line between vulnerability and over sharing?
Consider the Latin adage Cui Bono? It translates as, To whose benefit? In investigating a crime, it is usually more expedient to investigate those suspects who have something to gain.
Often, what trips us over the line from vulnerability and into the hazards of over- sharing is when we find ourselves the benefactors. In the Strength Finders assessment, one of the identified talents is that of Significance. People strong in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.
In the Catholic church, our National Directory for Catechesis (faith formation) helps us discern what constitutes an authentic presentation of the Christian message. It establishes a “hierarchy of truth,” which first and foremost asks if the message “centers of Jesus Christ.” It also places a prominence on “proclaiming the good news of salvation.”
When we as spiritual leaders (and there is no denying that is how others perceive us, even if we fail to see it in ourselves) preach the gospel (which we are doing at all times—again, even if we fail to see it in ourselves) and choose to use words, I wonder, Who benefits? Does your witness make you seem like a likeable, real person, or does it empower me with my own story of challenges and faith? Does your story set yourself up, or did you call attention to the One who is Good News, even in hard time?
If you are my spiritual leader, I’m not sure that I ever need to hear about your alcoholism, your academic degrees, or even your smokin’ hot spouse, unless it somehow points me toward my own relationship with the Lord.