How I Balance Online Transparency and Discretion
For my part, and I haven’t done it perfect, I’ve tried to do what felt most wise and honoring to God, honoring to others, and gave me freedom to care for myself, in each stage of online “life.”
Here are three questions/principles I’ve used to think through these things:
#1- HOW CAN I PUBLICLY SHARE IN A WAY THAT HONORS MY LORD?
For me, ever since attending the Suffering & the Sovereignty of God conference in 2005, where we encountered people who had experienced great hardship in their lives (Steve Saint, Joni Eareckson Tada, etc.), a guiding principle has been to look at every situation in my life as part of God’s good plan for me, and a way that He will be more glorified.
So, no matter the situation (frustrating/hurtful/discouraging/exhausting), I want to strive to acknowledge God’s goodness and magnificence in it. So, I hold back public words until I can do so.
Privately, I work through hurts, pains, sorrows, struggles, in prayer, and with my husband and friends, but publicly, I try to wait to speak until I can speak in a way that rightly displays God’s goodness and glory in the situation. WHICH COULD MEAN that Facebook posts seem “shallow” or not as transparent while I’m processing through something difficult… but I’m OK with that because the people in real life, who are talking with me and living life alongside me, see and hear my heart until I am ready to put a stake in the ground about the particular circumstance we’ve walked through.
My goal is not to “be real” to the point that every person in any encounter with me, at any time, knows everything I am thinking and feeling, but to honor Christ.
So that affects what, and how much, I share at certain times.
#2- HOW CAN I PUBLICLY SHARE IN A WAY THAT WILL SHOW HONOR AND KINDNESS TO OTHERS?
At times when I’ve felt bruised by real life situations, I’ve pulled back and shared very little that was personal in the moment that I felt it. I wrote out articles but did not publish them until months later. I journalled. I shared my hurts privately with friends face-to-face, but did not put them on Facebook.
That is because, I believe that when our life particulars (yes, even great and bitter hurts– deep blows to my soul) include others (because of job, community, or family connections), the things that we publicly share need to prefer others above ourselves.
We should not resort to underhanded bashing, implications toward people who have hurt us, or manipulative comments that put us in the best light and others in the worst light.
- We need to give others the grace we ourselves would like.
- We need to see them with the maximum amount of grace we can possibly muster (and in times of hurt, we will need to FORCE ourselves to give them EVEN MORE grace because our human tendency is to do the opposite). [This is what the 1 Corinthians 13 phrase “love believes all things” means… that we believe the best possible thing about others.]
- We need to LOVE others through the ways that we share, and DON’T share. [1 Peter 2:19-25 holds up Christ as the example of how we should not revile in return, but instead, entrust ourselves to the One who judges justly.]
This may not always look like saying nothing publicly, but as a disciple of Christ, I am constrained by the desire to honor Him and seek peace and unity in the Body.
And it is my personal experience that, more often than not, that will mean that silence rather than a Facebook post, or saying nothing rather than writing half-sorted-out articles about a topic, may be the best way to love and honor others above myself. This does not mean that we don’t pursue honesty and communication in real life, but rather, that online places are almost never the best repository for dumping or working through our deepest, most bitter hurts… at least not initially.
#3- HOW CAN I CARE FOR MY OWN NEEDS & MY FAMILY’S NEEDS, via online and real life opportunities?
The truth is that the Body of Christ is meant to operate primarily face-to-face. And so for me, the internet can be a tool to fuel that, or occasionally a way to seek wise counsel from a friend who lives on the other side of the globe, but primarily, my life online is a tool I can use to FUEL REAL LIFE GROWTH, in my REAL LIFE with my family and local Body of Christ.
So, I may read articles, or write articles, or read Facebook, or share on Facebook, but my goal is never to “connect” or “be real” or “be known” fully online. Facebook can’t be my relational center; it can’t function well in that way. We humans are not made for the screen.
Instead, my goal is to use online interactions as a way to grow in wisdom, be challenged or sharpened in my thinking, etc… in order that I might personally grow, and help my family to grow and be nurtured here in real life.
So, I may share online about things going on with my family… and I may not. But the dividing line between what I share or not is not to seek self-adulation (through “perfect pictures”), or to achieve “transparency” for the sake of transparency. I want to share things in such a way that my family is blessed and nurtured and cared for, and in order that I might grow relationships within the Body of Christ and my God-given sphere of influence (biological family, friends, etc.). I want to share things that are beneficial for others, but never at the expense of my family and local church
These are some guiding principles that help me sort out what to share, and how much to share, online. But they are not absolutes… just some thoughts I have on this topic.
So, please, bring your thoughts to the table, in the comments–
- Do you see flaws/gaps in my thinking?
- In what ways have you grown in your online interactions?
- How have you found a place of balance between transparency and discretion?
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