This post is by Heather B. I believe that transparency is the way we love.
A friend once told me, “You can’t love someone if you can’t talk to them.” I think we were discussing boys or dating at the time, but the older I get, the more I agree with her.
I think this means at least two things: One, it means that if you find yourself unable to say things that are meaningful to you to another person, then you probably don’t love that person. That an inability or reluctance to say things to someone else is a sign of deeper troubles. But two, I think this means something harder. I think it means that if we don’t talk to people, if we don’t say meaningful things to them, if we don’t put out the effort to communicate how we feel and what we think, then we are not doing the work of loving.
What does this have to do with Mormonism? As my family and I have left the church, I have felt the void with our friends and family. Some write us off, shutting us out of their lives. Some pretend that everything is the same, but avoid talking to us about anything meaningful in the name of avoiding contention. Some honestly and without guile believe that they have nothing in common with us anymore because we are not members. Few want to know the ‘real’ reasons that we left. On the same token, there have been times that we have written people off because of their level of church involvement.
It’s a lonely place. How do we fix it? Is it worth fixing?
I think we have a responsibility, the necessity, to be as transparent as we can be in at least our personal relationships with people. We can’t love someone, if we aren’t telling them what we’re thinking and how we feel about it. And we aren’t making it possible for them to love us, if we aren’t trying to make it easier for them to tell us what matters to them, if we aren’t trying to make it easier for them to be transparent.
I do want to recognize that we are all bad at this. The church is bad at it, the members are bad at it, and those of us on the other side of belief are bad at it. We get hurt, or fear getting hurt, and we shut ourselves away.
However, Christ asked his followers to love their neighbors. According to LDS scripture God showed his love by sending his son to make his plans transparent. Mormons believe in continuing and evolving scripture, that they have a Heavenly Father who has not ceased communication with them, because he loves them. Even here, on Mormon Matters, we do not all agree. But we do our best to communicate with each other, even when the divide is wide. I have kept and appreciated every e-mail from my fellow bloggers, letting me know I think you are wrong, but I really do appreciate your input. I know only a few of them, and they don’t HAVE to step out on a limb like that. I think of my small children, and how excited they are to tell me about life, and to listen to me teach them about it. Is there any better example of love?
The Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Dillard says that there is no such thing as talent (except in the fields of music, mathematics, and chess—and if you have such a gift, you’d know it by now). She says that we like to believe that people are born with innate talents because we like to think that the amazing things they do are easy for them, “that Rembrandt painted because he ‘had to’.” She says: “We want to believe all these nonsensical things in order to get ourselves off the hook.”
Loving people is hard work. Talking to people is hard work. Transparency is hard work. But valuing transparency, working towards transparency, is the stuff of loving. It’s the way we invite people around us to be where we are. It’s the way we end up where we want to be with the people we want to be there.