How Open Is Too Open?

One of the benefits of community group discussions is that they help us to flesh out what we’re learning on Sunday mornings. The post below is from our Music Director at Grace, Keith Groover, and was spurred on by conversations with his community group after this sermon. Thanks Keith!

Keith’s Thoughts

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about for the past few weeks is “how open is too open?” As in, what’s appropriate to share with others? Can you be honest without burdening those around you unnecessarily, and can you be private without being a closed-off hermit?

First, why should you even be honest? If you’re struggling with something, is that anyone’s business but yours? Well, yes, it’s your own business, but who you *really* are affects other people as well. In relationships, whether they’re professional or personal, people build up their expectations for who you are and what you’re capable of based largely upon how you present yourself. If you present a true version of yourself, people will know where you stand and what you’re capable of, and you will have functional relationships with those around you. But if you present yourself falsely, eventually your actions will not match your words, and you will disappoint the people who depend on you.

A quick analogy to illustrate this point: you’re a hammer. You tell people you’re a hammer, and they expect you to act like a hammer. You act like a hammer, and everyone’s expectations are met and everyone is happy. If people need a screwdriver, they don’t come to you because you aren’t a screwdriver. No one is disappointed. After all, no one expects a hammer to be a great screwdriver. But problems arise if you tell people that you’re actually a screwdriver. When they expect you to do screwdriver-like things, they’re going to feel disappointed and cheated when they find out you’re actually a hammer. And they *will* find out, because their expectations will not be met by what you can actually deliver. Your ability to lie about being a screwdriver is unsustainable in the long-run.

But how do you present a true version of yourself while maintaining your privacy? Everyone has dirty laundry, and it’s completely acceptable to keep that dirty laundry away from the public. The world doesn’t need to know *exactly* who you are and what you’ve done, right?

I believe honesty truly is the best policy, but here’s the key: you can be *comprehensive* in your honesty without being *exhaustive* in your honesty. “Comprehensive” meaning broad and “big picture”, and “exhaustive” meaning every last detail is exposed and catalogued. I see this as a kind of “honesty continuum”, with comprehensive on one end and exhaustive on the other end, but you can land on any point between those two.

So how do you choose the proper point on that continuum? How much should you share or hold in? It really should be made on a case-to-case basis. I was discussing this with several friends the other night, and one friend made a great point: is sharing this information going to be helpful to both of you and to your relationship? Or is it going to cause harm? Ultimately, if the person receiving the information is in a position where he can *help*, and/or that information is not going to harm him, it’s probably okay to share. But that isn’t always the case.

For example, you struggle with a gambling addiction. You have a friend whose father struggled with gambling, and he can help you and it’s not going to hurt him, so you open up to him. He gives you advice and support, and everything is great. In another instance, though, you’re offered a job where you will have significant access and freedom over your company’s money. You know that you’ll likely get into trouble if you accept the job. What do you do? Well, if your boss can help you with your addiction and you trust him with the information, you can tell him up front that you’re afraid you will gamble with the money. Most likely, though, he’s not in a position to help you, so you tell him that you can’t take the job. When he asks you why, you can tell him that you don’t have the ability to work with large amounts of money like that. Most likely he’s going to want to dig a little further and figure out what you mean. You can back off at that point and say “I have personal reasons why I can’t.” You have been comprehensively truthful, but not exhaustively truthful. Your boss understands the big picture, but doesn’t necessarily need to know every last detail, because he can’t help you with what you’re going through.

There are many other situations, of course, but mentally working through them, I’ve found that those two questions really help me to sort them out: Will sharing this be hurtful? Will sharing this be helpful? I believe we as a society tend to be way too closed-off from one another, and that we also tend to show the world only our good side without even hinting at our negatives. In order to open up, I don’t think we need to go whole-hog and start recreating scenes from the world of “The Invention of Lying”, where everyone is *painfully* honest and open with one another (because lying doesn’t exist.) What we need to do, though, is give people enough information so that they will have realistic expectations as to how we’ll act and what we can do.

 

 

Creating Community

One of the things we at Grace talk about frequently and value highly  is community. We even have these things called community groups that we encourage our members to join. We want to be involved in each others’ lives and in the life of this place where God has called us to live.  Now, if you’re reading this, you’re obviously online. Here’s the question – does the wired world we live in foster community. Or does it create the illusion of community? As Wendell Berry points out below – “Community is not made just by communication.”  What are some tangible ways you can move toward community that is more than just communication- toward knowing, loving, and serving your neighbor? Think about it.

 

Thoughts from Wendell Berry:

I don’t, on purpose, see much television, and my acquaintance with social media is at secondhand. What I know is that when neighbors replace local stories with stories from television, and when they sit in the house and watch television instead of talking on front porches, a profound disintegration has taken place. And I know it is impossible to talk to somebody who is “telecommunicating” with somebody who is absent.

The usefulness of electronic communication to cultivate community, I think, is tightly limited. It may be useful in emergencies, useful to people who are sick and shut in, etc. But community is not made just by communication. It is a practical circumstance. It is composed of people who have a place in common. But it is made by people’s willingness to be neighbors, good and faithful servants, to one another. It survives by its members’ recognition of their need for one another, if only to keep the small children from getting lost or run over, or to keep their trash out of the streams and roads. My guess is that a healthy community would be indivisible from its own, its local, economy.

Blessing, Community, and Depression

With the recent death of legendary comedian Robin Williams, depression and suicide have been on everyone’s mind. And I know that I risk oversimplifying a complicated issue, but Christians should remember that, in the gospel, we have a way to fight back against depression. The gospel tells us that while yes, we are sinful, broken, and hurting people living in a sinful, broken, and hurting world – we are loved and treasured by our Father. He has chosen to bless us in spite of our sin. And He has called us to go and bless others. We are loved. Our lives do matter, and we do have a purpose – to bless the people God has placed around us with the gifts God has given us. One has to wonder whether Robin Williams finally got so caught up in his own funk (as we all have) that in a tragic moment he forgot how much joy and laughter he has brought into the lives of others.

Today, if you’re fighting depression, discouragement, or a sense of purposelessness – remind yourself that you have been blessed by God so that you can go and bless others. You’ve been uniquely gifted to bless others in a way that no one else can. Don’t lose sight of that – and don’t lose sight of Jesus who loves you. Maybe if you and I spent a little more time staring at Him and a little more time looking at the people he has called us to bless – we’d be a little less likely to get caught up in our own funk.

Depression wants to isolate you – don’t let it. Find a group of people where you can love and be loved. At Grace, community groups are a great place to love and be loved, to bless and be blessed. You should join one. You don’t have to be alone.

Everdayness

At Grace Presbyterian, two of our core values are Everydayness and Neighboring. Why are these so important to us? Tim Chester, in his book, Everyday Church, says:

“At the heart of our vision is not a new way of doing events but the creation of Word-centered gospel communities in which people are sharing life with one another and with unbelievers, seeking to bless their neighborhoods, “gospeling” one another and sharing the good news with unbelievers.. The context for this gospel-centered community and mission is not events, but ordinary, everyday life.”

“Programs are what we create when Christians are not doing what they are supposed to do in everyday life. Because we are not pastoring one another in everyday life, we create accountability groups. Because we are not sharing the gospel in everyday life, we create guest services. Because we are not joining social groups to witness to Jesus, we create our own church social groups. Please do not misunderstand. We are not against meetings or events or programs. The regular meeting of the church around God’s word is vital for the health of everything else. This is where God’s people are prepared for work’s of service. But the works of service take place in the context of everyday life.”

Not a Facebook event. Won’t show up in the Sunday bulletin. Ordinary. Everyday. Loving Jesus. Loving your Neighbor. Loving Spartanburg.

Who are you sharing life with?

Grace and Peace,

Justin

Leaving Judges Behind

This past Sunday, I preached the last sermon in our 15 week series in Judges. And some of you are probably ready to move on! While Judges is entertaining, to say the least, it’s also dark and disturbing – especially as you get to the end of the downward spiral over the last few chapters. We’ve seen what nations, churches, and even we are capable of when there is no king in Israel and everyone does what is right in their own eyes (see Judges 21:25). Seeing the effects of sin up close is not easy or enjoyable.

But, the sin and darkness of Judges is not meant to weigh us down in endless contemplation of our own hearts, it’s meant to cause us to long for a better Judge, a better Deliverer, a better Savior, a better King! We have just that Savior/King in Jesus Christ. And that’s good news!

This summer we will working our way through 1st Peter. And while 1st Peter is written to Christians undergoing great difficulties, I think you’ll find it a little more “uplifting” than Judges.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

Grace and Peace,
Justin

Inquirers’ Class

This Sunday we have the privilege of receiving new members at Grace! We are excited and thankful that God is continuing to grow his church. We’re also excited to be starting our Inquirers’ Class this Sunday. The Inquirers’ Class is designed for people who are planning to join Grace or for those who just want to learn more about the church. The class starts at 9:15am. We hope you can join us!