(Ok, I am going to be transparent: I haven’t posted in a month because I’ve been too busy working on my much more popular tea blog. But I’ve realized that my ministry extends beyond tea, so I am going to try and be more regular about posting here.)
Back to transparency. As I discussed in my last post on this subject, we often seek to define transparency by what might be termed “transparency best practices”: We shift from “transparency” to things like accountability and honesty without considering what it is to be transparent. And as my blogging pal Paul Meyers noted in his comment, most people aren’t even good enough at being honest with themselves to be truly transparent.
Since I definitely fall into this last category, I had to think long and hard for an example of how to be transparent.
And then I thought of my glass teapots.
I own three teapots. One is white porcelain and opaque. The others are clear glass. I confess to being more fond of the glass teapots because I like to be able to see the tea leaves unfurl as they steep. I like to be able to watch the color of the tea liquor darken so that I can know exactly when the tea is ready to be poured. I like being able to see if the teapot is in need of emptying/cleaning at a glance. I like being able to examine the leaves after I drink my tea without getting my hands wet.
I like being able to see right through those pots. And the interesting thing is that those pots don’t have to do anything other than hold my tea. They don’t try to be transparent or function transparently. They are transparent.
Now humans are not teapots. Unlike a teapot we have personalities, moral agency, and intelligence. We have souls. But I still think that my humble teapots have something to teach us about transparency, namely that it is in large part dependent on what we are made of: If we build up a persona out of defensiveness and/or opportunism, it won’t matter how “accountable” or honest we are to others, we still aren’t going to be transparent. We will continue to manage, or try to manage, how others see us and what it is that they see and in the process render ourselves even more unknowable to ourselves and to others.
If we are transparent, we are knowable, both by ourselves and others. It isn’t a matter of our actively disclosing information or being “accountable”. Instead, when we are transparent, we are knowable to others: What they know of us depends on their physical/spiritual/emotional/mental proximity to us, rather than strictly on our own actions.
And we become more knowable, we can better know ourselves.
More on this later. Thanks for reading.