When It’s Too Much To Share

Three anonymous questions:

– Hello Pastor Park, Quick question: How much should you share in small group? God wants us to be transparent and vulnerable but some things should be kept between you and God to keep intimacy with Him, no?? I am always encouraged by reading your entries! I learn so much through you teaching God’s word. Keep it up!

– I have been pretty honest about my struggle with porn on my blog because I think girls need to talk about it, but recently my boyfriend has gotten upset and asked me to disclose less information … Is he justified in saying that or is he being paranoid?

– Is the point of confessing your sins to each other as it says in the book of James only for accountability and community purposes? Why can’t someone confess only to God? … I had a friend who was rebuked on sharing something personal, so I’m confused as to when/ in front of whom is it appropriate to confess.

Hey friends, this is an excellent question that I often ask myself too.  I’ve been accused of being “too open” on my blog and when I preach on Sundays, and it’s a tough balance to know exactly when it’s TMI.

As always, I believe it comes down to one simple thing.

What is your primary motive in sharing your heart about these things?

When I first became a Christian, I was sort of the oddball in the group because of my sketchy past.  When we shared in Bible study, I would confess crazy things about streetfights and porn addiction and drinking binges, and the group would be fascinated.  The pastor would feel proud that I had been rescued out of a life of sin, and the others would love my thrilling stories.

But I was confessing these things out of a selfish, prideful, attention-hogging heart.  I loved it when people reacted with jaw-drops and looks of affirmation.  I even loved it when I told better stories than “I grew up in church and got saved.”  It was a terrible thing, and it took me a long time to see it.  It’s much less of a problem these days, but I still pray through these things to maximize God’s glory and humble myself.

You’ll really need to wrestle with your motives on this one.  While motives are a messy thing, we usually know what we’re doing when we set out to do it.  You secretly know if you’re just trying to get attention.  I can hear it in the voice of the vain shock-and-shlock preacher, the guy who confesses his criminal record during testimony time, the lady who continually victimizes herself in a self-pity-party.  It’s not hard to tell.

On the other hand, you cannot let anyone tell you about your motives.  No one knows that but you.  If we all go around rebuking each other for our honesty, then we end up shutting down any chance of vulnerability in the church.  We get dismissive of people too quickly when their problems don’t look like ours.

I really can’t stand it when people instantly jump to saying, “You’re using the victim-card.”  Because hey: vulnerable honesty is NOT playing the victim.  The church must be a place where we can be honest and expect only grace in return.  None of our motives are ever perfect anyway.  Of course we’ll have a tiny bit of a spotlight-mentality when we confess, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing it all for attention.  Often a confession is just a cry for help, and I hope the church can give every person the equal love they need.

Also: Confessing to one another in church is healthy because it makes it real.  While I’m all for keeping it between you and God, it’s a different experience to look someone in the eye and expose the underbelly of your double-life.  Sometimes that look of love from your friend is enough in itself to overcome your issue and move forward.  I believe that’s part of what James 5:16 calls the healing.

So let’s make it simple.  Confess to God first, always.  Then ask Him for wisdom on if or how to share, whether on your blog or with your church.  Ask Him about your motives. Consider other people.

More often than not, most confessions keep a very small circle of just a few people, or even one.  If I must confess to people, I almost always start with just one: a friend or my pastor.  Usually we can share with a larger crowd once the issue has been resolved.  And if it involves other people, do everything you can to protect them.  We are not in the business of confessing other peoples’ sins.

Of course, there’s no easy formula for this sort of thing.  Every situation is different.  But remember: If no one else knows about your issue except you and God, then I hope you’re okay with that first.  In the end, it’s between you and Him anyway.

— J.S.

3 thoughts on “When It’s Too Much To Share

  1. Agreed. Motive matters more than action. That seems to be the message of the Sermon on the Mount.

    As to the James passage, I explain it this way: Confessing sin and divulging details of actions taken in that sin are not the same. I believe James is teaching us humility in encouraging us to admit when we lie without telling the lie that we told, or confessing lust without describing our lustful actions.



  2. Much wisdom here. Are you 200 years old? Seriously, I admit that I urge caution on confession in a group, unless the group has a track record of compassion and no gossip. But confession to a person (one or more) as you say has a special place in God’s family. It beats the opposite of putting up a front of holiness; we are human after all (Romans 3:23).


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