By Dr. Deborah Waterbury
I was doing an interview recently about my book, The Lies that Bind: And the Truth that Sets You Free, when the interviewer asked me something that sort of took me by surprise. Up to that point, the interview had been going pretty much like all of the others, but then this particular interviewer asked something that quite frankly, no one has asked me before, at least not so candidly or with such heart-felt sincerity. She simply paused for a second or two and almost whispered, “Deb, how were you able to share this part of your life? I mean, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it. How could you do it?”
I generally don’t skip much of a beat during interviews. As I just stated, I like them. I enjoy the opportunity, and I’m pretty quick on my feet. However, I have to admit, I paused for a quick breath. I hadn’t really thought about it in those terms. Truthfully, not sharing either what has happened to me or what I have done had never occurred to me. It’s not that I’m transparent, as so many have accredited to me. It’s just that I’m so grateful. I’m so appreciative. How could I not share what I have done if it means not sharing what God has done for me?
As a teacher and a minister, that truth takes on an entirely new level of importance. Once we take on that mantel of responsibility, we also step into a different arena when it comes to God’s accountability. He demands more of us, and He will call us to a greater reckoning. That is a sobering reality, and if it doesn’t make every leader who is reading this article quake just a little bit in her shoes, then you aren’t thinking straight. James wrote in James 3:1, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (ESV) Now just in case you might argue that you don’t teach, you simply lead or counsel, I would argue that every time you move in some sort of leadership over another, you take up the mantel of teacher, and therefore this verse applies to all who lead in the church.
So what does “transparency” or “candor” have to do with responsibility in leadership, especially when it comes to leadership of women in the church?
Women are relational. They are sensitive, and they are wary of judgment. I would venture to guess that is exactly why the interviewer who originally asked me the question at the beginning of this article was a woman. She couldn’t imagine sharing what I’ve shared because of the judgment she feared would come.
Conversely, when a woman feels a sense of security and peace, when she feels freedom and a knowledge that she is in a place where there is no judgment, she will receive truth and love and knowledge without restriction. She will open herself in ways that otherwise she would not, but that requires at least one person in this equation to have the courage to risk the judgment that every other hurting woman is trying to avoid. That woman must be the leader.
If God has called you to lead women or to minister to women, then I guarantee you that He has called you to some level of transparency. I can also guarantee you that there are more rewards than you can count when you will allow the charred ashes of your past be the beautiful balm that soothes the wounds of women in pain.
Let me end with a few ways you can be this candid, and let me stress, if you haven’t done anything like this up to now, it won’t come easy. However, as a leader, this attribute of vulnerability isn’t negotiable, not for the women’s leader. Some level of vulnerability is completely necessary, so even if you find it difficult, please give it at least some attention.