Saturday, June 2, 2012

In Defense of Transparency

Do you personally know anyone who is not having a hard time in life?  Right now?  Today?

If you answered "Yes," I'm going to guess you just don't know them well enough.  

by D Sharon Pruitt
When my daughter was a freshman in college, a professor of a large lecture class she was attending asked each student to anonymously write on a slip of paper one major struggle they were facing.  He then collected and read them to the class.  My daughter thought she'd top the list, since her dad was in jail facing sexual abuse charges against her younger sister.  She was shocked to hear almost every paper contain horrible situations.  Cancer, rape, homelessness, death of a parent... the list went on and on.  Most of the papers contained serious crises.    

A wise man once said, 
When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble 
and you will be right more than half the time.

The other day, another daughter told me about a conversation with her friend.  They were trying to find a way get together and it just wasn't working. But they were both pretending they didn't really mind.  She said, "I wonder why we do that.  We're both sad about something, but we pretend we don't mind."  As my older daughter immediately pointed out, "We all have hard things in life.  Maybe if we shared what was going on, people would be nicer."

I'm not suggesting we air our dirty laundry for the neighbors, but being able to admit things are hard, and even being brave enough to discuss what the hard things are, could help make the world a kinder place.

Imagine if we knew what was going on around us.  How much kinder would we be? How much more compassionate when the copier repair man is 15 minutes late?  When the guy in front of the line at Starbucks takes a few extra minutes choosing his coffee?  When our daughter is grouchy after school? If we knew the real situations, would these things even matter?  

Since none of us is about to develop x-ray vision into the lives our fellow humans, this change will only take place when we open up.  The world will only become more transparent if we are willing to admit that things aren't perfect in our corner of life-- if we let down our facade and share our struggles. 

Think of how this could change the world.  Imagine you knew not only that you weren't the only mom struggling with how to handle a son's pornography habit, but that you knew 26 other moms who had similar concerns because they dropped the facade, talked about it and admitted there was a problem.

Imagine having this kind of network available for the thousand other difficult things you face in life. How much less judgmental would the Rachel Linds of the world be if her struggles were also known? And how much more patient would we be with her quick tongue?

Connected to this, is the idea that transparency keeps people honest.  This is true in politics, CEO bonuses, and family life.  The more transparent things are, the more honest people tend to be.

I was in a group family therapy session with my youngest son recently.  He's struggling with several things including a pornography addiction and recovering from sexual abuse.  It was good to work with other parents in similar situations, to hear their ideas and see that I'm not alone.  (Something I knew in theory, but having living, breathing people in the room who were in the same boat was reassuring.)

The session was about trust, and a therapist asked how trust was related to parents monitoring kids computer usage.  You'd have thought someone had set off fireworks in the room the way it exploded. 

The kids felt that Trust = Love = Complete Freedom.  The parents (and therapists) disagreed.
Trust does not equal Love, does not equal complete freedom. 
Make a note of this if you or someone you love thinks otherwise.  

The kids went through the roof.  Apparently this was a hot topic for them.  I think it is for lots of people, in lots of situations.  But I firmly believe, If you are not ok with transparency, you have something to hide.   

Trust = Consistency/Time

By D Sharon Pruitt
Trust is earned by being consistent over a long period of time.  It takes a long time to build, and it can be broken very quickly.  Learning to trust you is not something I need to do.  Becoming trustworthy is something you need to do.  One thing that helps build trust is transparency.  

I have a truly amazing friend who is, in every sense of the word, a domestic engineer.  She makes a serious study of how to raise a successful, peaceful, well-educated family.  And then she applies what she learns.  Her home is a beautiful example of applied family science.

She shared with me her ideas on marital fidelity, and I think they apply to other areas of life as well.  She said she trusts her husband, and she knows there are a ton of temptations out there for men. So to keep her trust strong, and help her husband remain strong, they share all passwords for Facebook, email accounts, and everything else online.  She checks up on where he is and who he's with from time to time.  And she lets him know that she's aware of how he's spending his lunch breaks.  Not that she spends all her free time snooping into his affairs.  Far from it!  She keeps a family with several children happy, educated, and fed!  But she expects and follows through on transparency.  

Because she trusts her husband and wants to keep that trust strong, and because he trusts her and wants to keep the trust strong, they lead transparent lives.  

I am a huge advocate of transparency.  This includes computer monitoring, random phone and text message checks, calls to friend's houses to make sure family members are where they say they are, and all-around openness.  Because transparency fosters trust.

We all have hard things in our lives.  That doesn't mean we need to hide them. 
If we let others in and share the burden, we help no only ourselves, but those around us.  
If we are being honest, we will welcome transparency in our lives with the people we love.    

Note: Please see my Resources Page for ideas on Family Internet Safety.


Rebecca =) said...

I just thought of a great example I forgot to include! My cat, Carly.

I love Carly. She is a sweet little kitten and we all love having her in our family. But I know she likes to sharpen her claws on my furniture. The fact that I love her does not mean I trust her not to shred the couch. And the fact that I don't trust her with the couch doesn't mean I don't love her. It means I put a blanket over the couch, buy scratching posts, and toss her off the furniture when I sense a claw-sharpening moment coming on. I monitor her behavior because I know where her weaknesses are. Not because I don't love her.


Cindy Watson said...

Carly! Wonderful example! And yes trust is earned not something to be demanded.

Rebecca =) said...

Yes, Cindy! In fact, demanding it without earning it lowers trust.

literarykitty said...

To me, the cat thing is different to your friend's situation with her husband. I don't expect a cat to consider my feelings - it's not a cat's nature, but I couldn't be with a man who couldn't regulate his own behaviour without my eye on him.

Each to their own, of course, and perhaps it works well for them, but I find something uncomfortable about the idea.

I guess checking up on someone, even if they're happy for you to do so, doesn't meet my definition of trust.

I leave my accounts open at home and my boyfriend could look at them if he wanted but I value the fact he wouldn't, and I would never look at his stuff either.

Having said that, he's never done anything to break my trust. Perhaps your friend has had different previous experiences to me?

Polly said...

I agree with the above post. Transparency is important, but I don't feel the need to check up on someone unless something causes me to question the trust. I don't think randomly checking someone's e-mail is a sign of trust, but actually a lack thereof. I DO believe that with a child who is heading down a wrong path, such means are necessary. But, checking up on a loved one who has done nothing to betray trust seems like looking for trouble where none exists. I do agree that time and consistency = trust. But time and checking up on me just to prove to both of us that we have a transparent relationship seems like there is actually a LACK of trust, but maybe that's just me or I don't fully understand the relationship you wrote about.

I love the Carly analogy! Beautifully and simply stated and I will probably use it at work, often. Darn kids.

Cindy Watson said...

I randomly check my younger kids FB friends and ask them where they met them and such. For me it's not as much about trust but they don't know enough and could be easily swayed. I do however check about schoolwork and chores because they have not been proved trustworthy in those areas.

Danielle Hale said...

Four years ago if you told me you were going to do a blog that was this transparent, I would have never believed you. You never hid things from me, but when other people were around, you certainly didn't volunteer a lot of information. You have transitioned from being a closed to being a much more open. I love that! I assume this has fostered a lot of growth in a lot of areas of your life? Am I right?

Danielle Hale said...

My husband has all my passwords and he reads my text messages and email and facebook semi-regularly, but he doesn't do it to check on me, he does it because he wants to know me better..and then we don't run out of things to talk about. I think spouses should be involved in each others cyberlives, but not in a distrustful way.

Rebecca =) said...

Yes, Danielle. You are very right. (Is that good grammar?) I remember sitting in your living room talking about things I didn't share with almost anyone else. And now I'm blogging about them. Feels kind of like standing naked in Target. Terrifying and liberating at the same time. Not that I've ever been naked in Target.

Cindy Watson said...

Trying to figure out what would be liberating about being naked at Target...