I never really understood the phrase “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.” I think it’s because of the fact that I grew up living in a fishbowl, so the meaning behind the cliche got lost for me.
I guess the intention behind the phrase is similar to the instructions in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” But for me, when I started to hear that phrase and begin to attempt understanding it, I was also beginning to understand what it means to live in a fishbowl.
The fishbowl idea is simple – basically, your life is transparent to everyone, they see all and know all that you do. There is very little that you can keep private. So does that mean that because everyone knows my every move, I can’t metaphorically throw rocks? I think that is true for a lot of pastors. See, pastors are called by God to preach the Word, both the law and gospel. But I can’t tell you how many times my husband has been harranged by someone for speaking the law to them, for pointing out their sin. I know it’s true that people don’t want to hear what they are doing wrong. Truth is, that is probably the biggest problem with our culture today, that everyone believes they have the right to do whatever they want to do, and anyone who places limits on them is being judgmental. My husband has even been accused of being judgmental by his own parents, not because he spoke words of judgment to them personally but because he tried to share with them some of the difficulties of his ministry. He has since learned to keep quiet about his work around them, which has widened the gap between him and his family. It’s tough when our lives revolve almost entirely around church, whereas they don’t go to church at all any more. He even asked his mom to go to church on Christmas as a gift to him, and she still had reasons and excuses for why she couldn’t attend.
At least he is able to be open about his life with people – being transparent makes him more available as a pastor and as a human being, allowing others to share in his struggles. And while he can’t always be transparent with his family, the difficulities he experiences sharing his faith with them helps him to relate to members of the church as they struggle with witnessing to their loved ones.
I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I may have grown up living in the fishbowl, but at least I can talk about my faith with my parents and sister, who know what it’s like to live the transparent lifestyle.