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What are you hiding?

I’m pretty much an open book. It’s easy for me to open up to people—to share the good and the bad in my life, to offer my opinion, to admit fault. I’ve always thought this was a good thing. I’ve lived in several cities in my adult life, and though I find small talk excruciating, my openness makes it fairly easy to make it past “where are you from?” and into deeper territory.

And my open bent is praised today. In the age of social media where we live our lives in public for all to see (no matter how filtered our images are), authenticity is the word of the age. Openness and “being real” are praised and admired. We make decisions every day to give up privacy in order to connect—whether we’re showing off our fitbit steps or checking in to restaurants, we’re choosing to be tracked electronically. We are averse to hiding.

But is openness always a good thing? Ought we to tell all in an effort to be “real” in front of others? Probably not. I’ve been thinking about leadership since I reviewed Andy Crouch’s new book Strong and Weak. Crouch argues that we need both strength and weakness (or authority and vulnerability) in order to flourish.

Crouch notes, though, that leaders often appear to have less vulnerability than they really have. They seem strong and powerful, without weakness. But leaders must hide their vulnerability for the good of those who follow them. After all, what good is it for the community to know the leader’s struggles when they can’t do anything about them?

This hidden vulnerability has me pondering. Though I understand why the POTUS should not tell the masses the contents of security briefings, I haven’t made a habit of hiding my own vulnerabilities. Maybe that means I haven’t been leading well?

Then I remember my kids. And I do hide some of my struggles from them. I don’t show all of my vulnerability. Why? As children, they don’t deserve to carry the burden of financial stress, work conflict, or an uncertain future. These aren’t things they can do anything about at their young ages. Their sense of scope is limited—their offer to donate their piggy bank earnings is touching but not that helpful. I want to offer them a sense of safety and security, not a precarious life filled with anxiety. Hiding some things from my children is a way to protect them and show them love.

But I don’t hide all of my struggles from them. It’s important for them to see me fail. It’s important that I ask them for forgiveness when I sin against them. And then it’s important that we start again, trusting Jesus to help us grow in our love and respect for one another. I’m still learning what to share and what to hide as I develop as a leader. And right now, my kids are my main followers.

What about you? As you lead, what you are hiding from your community and why?

Anna Moseley Gissing

Anna Moseley Gissing is Associate Academic Editor of InterVarsity Press. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and her writing has been published in Let us Keep the Feast and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids, and she aspires to more reading, more writing, and more patience.

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