The difference between authenticity and full disclosure

  I think you should know something: there is a lot you don’t know about me.

 

stories I don't shareThese days, one of the highest values in writing is story. Disclosing our stories with one another is how we share life. We see how much we have in common, and we relate to each other on different levels than we could have otherwise.

 

But there is something problematic about sharing my stories with you: my stories do not involve only me.

 

Stories, in their very nature, have multiple characters. So before I write out my life to share with the big wide world of the Internet, I have to ask myself how my admissions will affect the others involved.

 

I want to be authentic and honest, but I also want to be respectful to the people I care about.

 

Disclosure comes with risk. Anything in full view is no longer protected. Once it is out in the open, it can be picked up and cared for and treasured, but it can also be dissected and thrown and smashed.

 

As a writer, I can choose to take that risk with my own heart. The possible hurt is worth it because of how authenticity and honesty can change things. I want others to know the real me. And I long for each of us to know we are not alone.

 

But what about the hearts of others?

 

Sometimes I decide the threat to my relationships is not worth the value of sharing my stories.

 

And so, there are many things about me you don’t know. I have stories that have been integral to my formation that I choose not share in this space.

 

I have not disclosed to you all the things I have struggled with in the past, all the issues I wrestle with now, all the ways that I have been hurt, or all my behaviors that may have damaged others.

 

The decision making process about which stories to share is difficult. There are things I could tell you that I think could help you. And maybe even make “my platform” bigger. But in the end, my relationships with the people I love in my real see-them-face-to-face-on-a-regular-basis life, end up playing the trump card.

 

I do not practice full disclosure. But I do believe I practice authenticity.

 

There is a difference between screening stories and hiding flaws. 

 

When a risky story comes up, I need to filter why it feels dangerous. If disclosing risks a relationship, the appropriate answer may be not to share. If disclosing risks casting me in a negative light, the appropriate answer may be to put it out there for the world to see.

 

My filter may be different than yours. Anne Lamott once said,

 

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” -- Anne Lamott

 

I see her point. And if you feel that way, too, I don’t judge you for it. In fact, I celebrate it. The world needs you.

 

I just want you to know that’s not me. And I hope you don’t judge me for that either.

 

I hope you don’t assume that my life has been easy just because you don’t know all the stories of how it has been difficult.

 

It’s not only our stories that make us unique. It’s also the way we choose to disclose those stories. Let’s have the courage to be authentic to who we are, and to how we feel called to share.

 

What is your filter for sharing your stories? What do you think the difference is between disclosure and authenticity?