Does this sound familiar?
You just looked at something you shouldn’t… again. And, in the middle of regretting your poor choice, you think, “Man, I really should talk to someone about this. I need some help.”
But then you don’t… again.
And why? Because the same thoughts start flooding your mind.
- “Who can I tell?”
- “If I talk to [name], how will he/she react? Will he/she be cool with this?”
- “How embarrassing will this get?”
So you decide not to say anything… again.
The irony is you don’t want to tell anybody, but at the same time you want to tell everybody. Because the shame that haunts you is twice as smothering when you feel isolated and alone, leaving you stranded and directionless.
This is not the way it should be. But unfortunately, it’s the way it is.
And listen, it’s understandable. I’ve been there myself. It’s very hard to try to be honest and vulnerable when you have no idea if you’ll get the same in return. This is what happens when living in a “don’t ask don’t tell” culture where vulnerability and transparency are ridiculed rather than rewarded.
- We frown upon being open, transparent, and vulnerable because of the discomfort it creates for everyone.
- We see these traits as signs of weakness instead of signs of strength.
- We look down on those who are brave enough to admit they have shortcomings or struggles and even ostracize them.
These perspectives are not only damaging and hurtful, but they perpetuate all sorts of other problems and show a complete lack of empathy. The truth is that our culture has cultivated this erroneous belief that “true strength” comes from keeping certain things private and our flaws hidden.
Sadly, this is not the case.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. Transparency and vulnerability is not only commendable, it’s a sign of true strength of character.
Here are three reasons why I say that:
First, transparency says “I’m not afraid of taking some heat.”
True character means that you are willing to face the repercussions of what you do (both good and bad). Transparency is all about sharing your inner struggles, failures, and shortcomings with the understanding that there may be some hard questions to follow.
Second, transparency requires trust – and trust requires a lack of fear.
When you get vulnerable with a friend, you are basically opening your life up and trusting them to treat your personal information with the respect and honor it deserves.
Let’s be honest, we have all had our trust violated. We have all been let down and kicked in the gut. However, true strength means we get back up for round two. Being transparent, vulnerable, and accountable is all about trust, and only individuals with true strength of character are able to trust without fear of what may go wrong.
Lastly, being transparent and accountable requires action.
An individual with a strong character is not passive by nature. They make things happen rather than waiting for things to happen to them. What I mean is that they act on their values rather than letting life’s circumstances determine what they value.
Stepping out and being open or authentic is a choice, and a brave one at that. You can’t be truly open without a decision to do so and the action to follow through.
Openness only happens when someone leads the way. And the person doing that is usually someone driven by their values and integrity.
Realize that if you are dealing with some things, when you have the bravery to talk about it, you may draw some criticism, but it will be from the 1% of people whose opinions really don’t matter. The truth is there is a much larger group of people who will be inspired and impressed with your integrity and authenticity even though they might lack the courage themselves to tell you as much.
Whatever the struggle or challenge you are facing right now, know that if you are willing to own it, talk about it, and seek out help for it, that makes you a person of truly strong character.
BTW, if you are a man struggling with unwanted sexual behavior and need a place to be vulnerable and open without the fear of judgment or condemnation, consider joining me in the Live Free Community.
And as always, if you have any questions about this or need any advice on your sexual and/or recovery journey, ask us anything you want HERE and we’ll answer your question in an upcoming Office Hours segment