Being Transparent


There’s a trend in business today to be TRANSPARENT. An organization I have done consulting for goes as far as to have glass walls for their Executive offices so that nothing is hidden from employees. There is a sense of vulnerability there – being exposed for all to see. They can tell when you are on the phone or goofing off on the computer or simply zoning out.

With the Millennial group, the desire to be transparent shows up in church connecting groups, at work and also in friendships. They want to go deep and fast. This can be really off-putting to others who have been told that you should have a line between business and personal, between how much you share and how often. Social media has also impacted this desire to have everything be shared. When I log on to my social media accounts, there are pictures of everything – from what their cat coughed up to the latest pair of shoes they purchased. Do I need to know all that? No. Do I care about all that? Not really (especially not the cat bit). So why share all of it – what’s really behind this?

In Psychology, there is a model used for self-awareness called the Johari Window. This has degrees of what you hide and what you share. Trusting others with information you normally hide will allow you to learn more about yourself that you didn’t know or even understand.


I did some work with a woman who was completely put together. She had a habit of fixing her make up, hair, etc before each meeting even though not a hair was out of place. Her dress and mannerisms were impeccable. To me, she looked like she stepped out of a magazine with her crisp clothes, polished manners and manicured nails. It was a bit intimidating at first to be around her. I felt like the dumpy friend that some girls take on as a benevolence project to help them become more socialized.

As we worked together more and more, on projects that took us long into the night, she began to disclose more about her hidden self. Not many people know much about her. She was sweet and kind, but had a sharp edge to her that came out now and then. One day, I mentioned to her about how immaculate she always appears and how it can be intimidating so someone who doesn’t know her. It seems like she is absolutely perfect.  She looked at me and said “I was homeless. I lived in a car with my mother until I was 8 years old.”

It blew me away!

What a confession. Still, it didn’t explain why and how she behaves and also how she got to this high paying job with an advanced college degree. She said that a woman who lived nearby noticed that there was a little girl who was always in a car when she went to work in the morning (her mom simply drove her to her work and she waited patiently in the car all day long for her to return). The woman stopped one day and asked my friend why she was not in school. She told the woman that she was waiting for her mom and gave her mom’s name. The woman went and found her mother and got them help from others, helped to place my friend in school and have some type of a home. She worked extra hard to put herself through high school and then college. The way she looked was done on purpose. It was a huge facade that she constructed so that no one else would see what she had to deal with and her past would not come up due to her credentials today.

These are the walls that we set up before us so that we don’t have to share certain things that are painful reminders of the past. Not everyone wants to be transparent. Also, being transparent doesn’t mean that you take pictures of your meal and post it online for your 500+ closest friends to see.

Real transparency comes from being AUTHENTIC. Are you who you say you are? Or are you moody, changing your behavior from one meeting to the next? Are you unpredictable to your staff or to family? Do you say you are a nice person and then chew out the cashier who puts your canned tomatoes on top of your bread? These are the things that allow someone to develop trust in others. Trust is the key to building relationships. Without consistency in who you say you are (=Open Self) and then acting in a way that’s contrary without even realizing what you are doing (= Blind Self), you may not be trusted.

photo from Kingspeech

In business, if being transparent means not having a hidden agenda, not back-stabbing others to get what you want or throwing them under the bus for a poor decision you made, then that’s not only good but also ethical behavior. In life, sharing difficulties you might have and not just the highlights of trips, awards or other accolades to make others feel inferior might be a great way to real – to be transparent. I know that at church, we sometimes don’t share the hard things of life. We don’t share about our children dropping out of school or doing things they shouldn’t do for fear of being cast out. When we begin to let go of a little bit of the Hidden Self, you increase the window of the Open Self. That’s where you can invite others to share what might be a difficult time in their life and help them to heal from hurts.

This is something we can apply daily in our walk. Just like my friend, even though outwards we may look alright, inside we are not perfect people. Stepping away from being transparent via facebook or instagram to being authentic is a good start to building trust and enhancing all relationships. This becomes an exercise in telling the truth, in doing what is beneficial and also in helping one another see their true self – not just the mask they want to hide behind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~Phil 4:8-9