Sunday, October 26, 2014

Naked and vulnerable- with who? Circles of Access & Intimacy in a Leaders life

Circles of Influence, Intimacy and Access.  What does it mean to live an authentic, transparent life as a public figure in ministry?  Who do you share what with?  Is it appropriate for everyone to know the deep challenges you walk through?  Is it somehow false or wrong to “keep secrets” or not reveal the whole truth about a struggle you are facing?

How do we as public ministry figures maintain high integrity, guard against hypocrisy and keep the gap between "the real you" and "the image/projected you" narrow?

Authenticity and transparency are important hallmarks of humble and powerful leaders in the Kingdom.  It is out of the reality of our struggles,valleys and the victories fought and won there, that we speak with authority our life messages to others- whether before a crowd or in a one on one mentoring time.

What has helped me a lot in this area has been understanding the concept of circles of intimacy and access.  The greatest intimacy and access to our heart, thoughts, emotions and truest feelings, the person in the most inner circle of our lives, the core, is our Lord.  Having an authentic, open, real relationship with him, where we feel free to tell him exactly what we think, feel and are experiencing, and to listen to His voice in that place, to cry on his shoulder, and receive his comfort... this is the place of greatest “nakedness” in our lives.  No one should have greater access to our hearts and our deepest “secrets” than Him. We meet with Him in that place of absolute honesty, naked and without shame, in our very worst and very best of times. Only Jesus is worthy of this level of access and only He can provide for us the level of unconditional love and acceptance needed for this kind of “exposure.”

The next circle out includes best friends or a spouse.  This person knows what is happening in our lives and we chose to be real and honest and “emotionally naked” before them, sharing the reality of our life and current struggles with sin, with God, with people, even with ourselves.  This is a place of great privilege, deep intimacy, trust and openness.  Sometimes a counselor walking with us in a crisis, may be given this level of trust as well.  These people have greater access too.  They are the ones who can walk into our office without an appointment, who we take time to communicate with on a daily basis, etc.

The next circle is a place for family or the closest of both mentors and disciples.  Again, we give greater access and information to them and we expect a higher level of communication, reciprocity in relationship, and we are willing to invest highly here. We share deeply who we are and what we are going through as well as giving them the same opportunity to do so with us. 

Family members and those you work with on a regular basis may be included in the circle mentioned above or they may not.  This depends on the relationship, commitment and primarily on the level of trust and reciprocity you experience.  When trust is broken, you may decide to remove someone from the inner circle and they may no longer have the privilege of the same access and intimacy they once were given.

The circles continue outward, with lessening levels of access, intimacy and information until it reaches the circle of the public you speak to in crowds, and finally to the level of strangers or even “enemies” or those who oppose what you stand for and are striving for.  With those in the outer circles, you are still real, honest and authentic, but you are selective in the level of exposure of yourself and more guarded in what you feel is appropriate to share with them.  This is part of what Jesus spoke of when he said to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. 

It is critical in the lives of leaders that we work hard to stay authentic, open and real and to have people in those inner circles of access and intimacy- places where we are able to share our deepest pain and struggles.  And it is critical, yes, essential, that in our walk with God, we reach and maintain a level of intimacy and access with him where we can be absolutely naked and without shame before the God who loves us with a love that no human being can replicate or replace. 

But we do not need to feel guilty, or “false”, when we deny access to information about ourselves, or do not share the details of our lives with those in the outer circles.  It is as unwise to share too much with those people as it is to walk naked through the streets. You are opening yourself to abuse and problems if you strip yourself before them.  Its okay, and it is prudent, to be wise.  It is also necessary to deny free access of your time and energy to those in outer circles.  Though you may love them and care about their needs and issues, if time and energy flows to the outer circles, it will be taken away from those who you need to give to.  Time and energy are limited resources.  Never feel bad about saying “I don’t have time or energy right now, I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” with those who are not in your inner circles.  Even, in crisis situations, we can not let them intrude into our lives in a way that robs those who deserve our time, attention and energy from getting what they need and deserve from us.  When we do so, we will pay a price and the quality of intimacy and relationship with God and those closest to us will suffer. 

I wrote this, particularly to answer a question that came from my son.  "Why, mom, do you sometimes ask me not to share things you’ve said with others? I don’t like keeping secrets."  It’s a fair question.  Its all about access, intimacy and levels of exposure to those we’ve given that privilege to.  My children are in a closer circle than many others.  They pay a price for this in having to be cautious in what they say and share about with others.  They bear a responsibility that comes with high levels of trust being given to them.  My son is only 17.  I need to be careful not to give him more than he can bear.  At the same time, as I share deeply with him, he has a opportunity to grow and learn what many of his peers do not.  He has an opportunity for intimacy with me as his mom, and that is a gift I'm offering him.  How he treats that gift will determine what circle of intimacy and access he will be granted and we will enjoy together.

Often our kids have thanked us for being willing to be open and real with them about our challenges and our struggles.  What they are really thanking us for is trusting them with intimacy.  Its in the most intimate circles of relationship that deep discipleship happens, both in our lives and those we influence.


Source of image above:

Be careful, be wise, be vulnerable, pursue intimate and real relationships.  Keep secrets. Share secrets.  Be real.  Be authentic.  Be discerning.

Manage and regulate your energy and time and give it most to those who have earned that place and where you know the investments you make will bring great returns.  You’ll find as you do this your overall circles of influence will widen and many will be touched and changed by who you are and the impact you have.

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