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Last month was the spring board meeting of the Latina Leadership Institute, the organization that I co-founded, and which I serve as executive director. A few days prior to this event, I sat in my office, reviewing once more the minutes of the previous meeting. I was pleased to see that a high percentage of the action items that were my responsibility had been fulfilled, but there were two items that due to complex circumstances had not been completed. As I prepared my report, I worried deeply about them.
Friday arrived, and after a nice lunch with the board, a wonderful devotional, and approval of opening items, it was time for my report. I started with a great story illustrating how the LLI training had empowered one of our students to start a dynamic ministry in her city. I continued by sharing all the things that had been accomplished under my leadership. As I referred to the last line of my report, I remembered the two pending items. I had two choices: openly address them or hope that the board members would overlook them. In a leap of faith, I said: “I am grateful for all the things that were done. They took much time, energy, and work and I am very pleased with the results, but now … it is time for confessions.” Everybody laughed, and that helped me to relax a little. I proceeded to talk about the two items that had not been completed. I explained the reasons, and how they just became an impossibility given the circumstances that we had faced during the year.
To my surprise, there were no negative comments towards me, my performance, or the undone tasks. This confession, on the contrary, opened the door for a wonderfully constructive, visionary conversation on one of the items. This certainly was important! But the most important thing for me is what happened inside of me. I emptied myself from feelings of uncertainty and guilt, and space was opened for positive thinking, as well as great energy and creativity. For me, it was indeed an empowering process that changed the tone of the meeting because I was able to stop worrying.
The Bible speaks wisely about this issue: While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long … my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (Psalm 32:3-4). In this case, the psalmist was hiding a sin, but the feelings he describes can easily be applied to hiding a significant issue in our lives as well.
Specialists on the topic of empowerment call this process “coming out of the closet.” These familiar words are usually associated with the LGBT community. However, in this case, they refer to persons who perceive themselves as having an element in their identity that may cause them to be seen as different/less than the rest of the population. The decision to hide this fact “takes its toll in the form of decreased self-esteem and fear of discovery.”
In these cases, the lack of acknowledgment and fears of discovery are debilitating. On the contrary, admission and confession are liberating and empowering.
While this process may bring freedom, it is not an easy one. Here are some things to consider:
Regarding work related confessions, please do not consider this an invitation to irresponsibility. In my case, I had done most of the things that I had been asked to do. It is not a good idea to arrive to a meeting with a list of confessions, when a person knows that he/she has neglected his/her responsibilities all year long. It is not going to work! As Christians, we must remember that we are called to a high work ethic because we labor as if we were doing it for God (Colossians 3:23).
Transparency and honesty are key leadership qualities in our personal, ministerial, or professional lives. Most likely our superiors and/or followers can detect when we are pretending or hiding. Thus, it is better to deal with the issue.
However, many confessions, especially about sensitive issues, belong to sacred, trusted places. This means that we must be wise to discern the right place, people, and time to open ourselves up.
Finally, we must remember that everything has a cost. Therefore, we need to evaluate which cost is greater. Is it better to spend time and energy hiding an issue, or is it better in the long run to open up? Careful, prayerful consideration is a must here.
While my situation did not represent a moral transgression or an identity issue, it was still costing me my energy and creativity. My confession allowed me to feel free and empowered to positively continue with the meeting.
As I was pondering all this, Jesus’ words came to mind: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). May God grant us the wisdom and courage to acknowledge our truths, and to discern when to remain silent and when to speak. As for me, I have made the decision to incorporate a confession slot in all my future reports. My hope is that I will not need it, but you never know.