At least three motives can prompt a desire for privacy.
Three motives for wanting privacy are…
– Self-protection– public knowledge of personal information can expose a person to harm.
– Modesty– exposure of intimate matters can arouse lust, disgust, or shame.
– Guilt– full disclosure of one’s life can open a person up to sanctions.
All of these motives usually exist in most societies to some degree, but different cultures foster different attitudes toward privacy. The Japanese reportedly have no word for it.
Westerners have an exaggerated sense of self over against community, so they are more preoccupied with privacy concerns than most. At the same time though, many Westerners ironically seem largely unconcerned about arousing lust, disgust, or shame through public exposure of intimate matters. (Think talk shows, cell phone users…)
All of this often results in an inversion of values in which people hide what ought to be shared and expose what ought to be kept secret.
Both impulses undermine community. Lust, disgust, and shame arising out of inappropriate self-disclosure disrupt community. Community is likewise damaged when people hold back rather than open themselves up to others.
The secular world tends to have a disordered view of privacy that undermines community on both counts, from the simplest to the most complex– from family to church to nation. A biblical community, however, must uphold a different order– on one hand, valuing modesty in things that are truly private, and on the other, cherishing self-disclosure– the privilege of “being known”– in things that ought to be shared.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I [Paul] speak as to children) widen your hearts also– 2 Cor 6:11-13 (ESV)