*I hope that you read this with an open mind, more specifically a mind open seeking the highest Truth. I don’t know much and what I’ve written here is just one woman’s opinion. I welcome and encourage you all to share what you think. What do you think about authenticity? This blog exists to start conversations, so conversate!
**I can make up words like “conversate” if I want. 😉
***Authenticity does not always share the sad and tragic, but I did focus on that aspect a little more in this post. Can you all share others ways you are authentic? A dear friend, momma, mentor of mine shared that it is definitely easier for her to be authentically joyful. I think even that might be difficult for some. What do you think?
A village of women begins with one moment of connection and solidarity. In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis said it best, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
Those moments depend on authenticity. If we cannot truly bear our souls to one another, we have no hope of meaningful and fruitful relationships. Relationships without authenticity ring hollow and false; they are the white washed tombs of society.
The church body often talks about “authenticity”. We talk about being transparent and we often say that we need to shoulder each other’s burdens. In fact, in Galatians 6:2 we are told, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” James 5:16 tells us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
However, in spite of the importance, the absolute necessity of authenticity, we don’t always follow through with those instructions.
Whether you are the one sharing or the one listening, a wide open soul, sharing her deepest fears, disappointments, failures, or tragedies can be terrifying. If you are sharing you likely feel anxious about how you will be received. If you are listening you may feel wearied by the weight of sadness, so much so that you would rather turn away from it. Just to listen (and pray), not able to “do”, sometimes feels like more than we can bear.
This is a meaningful topic for me. As I’ve said before, I am a very honest, transparent and authentic person. What you see is what you get. Sometimes people love that; however, understandably, sometimes people are incredibly uncomfortable with it. I say “understandably” because, let’s face it, sometimes we just aren’t equipped, ready, or even desirous of dealing with someone else’s insides. And mine are almost always exposed. I have been called raw, and I think that is a good word for it.
Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/raw) defines raw as:
2a (1) : being in or nearly in the natural state : not processed or purified <raw fibers> <raw sewage> (2) : not diluted or blended <raw spirits>b : unprepared or imperfectly prepared for use c : not being in polished, finished, or processed form <raw data> <a raw draft of a thesis>
Oh yeah, that’s me. “Unprepared or imperfectly prepared for use.” And I’m certainly not polished. I know it’s a way God keeps me humble. Another way is that He made me so that I cannot even pretend to be otherwise. So, I can’t really take credit for my authenticity. I am just fearfully and wonderfully made that way.
Sometimes it gets me into trouble. About half the time it’s because I did not carefully consider my words before they came pouring out of my mouth. Maybe it was something I didn’t need to share, or maybe I was choosing to share it with the wrong person. (Like with someone I’ve only known for 5 minutes. And I am telling them my life story.)
But sometimes it is because as a society, although we say we value authenticity, it actually makes us very, very uncomfortable. It makes us squirm. If someone shares something painful, something raw, we want to turn away. If we cannot slap a cliché or a bandaid on that sucker, we want nothing to do with it. I am as guilty as the next person, in spite of my insides-always-hanging-out personality.
Authentic is hard. Raw is hard.
“One’s authentic nature is revealed in their ability to express and share what they think or feel in a relatively unadulterated form. Diplomacy, political correctness, false flattery, people pleasing, avoidance and silence may, in fact, be designed to mask the authentic, unfiltered self.”
Authenticity is an admission that life, my life and yours, is not perfect. It says, “Here is my problem—it hurts, I’m uncomfortable. What can I do about it? Where is my responsibility? Do I just need to accept it and pray?”
Authenticity desires resolution, change, and will take responsibility.
However, another reason that we evade authenticity is because we often mistake it for its ugly step-sister, Complaining.
Often we call it “venting”; we say, “I just needed to vent.” Sometimes we do just need to dump all the junk out of our head and have someone help us organize it and make it useful again. However, if we are not careful, this sharing and venting becomes complaining. And complaining is not just hard to listen to, it’s damaging.
Complaining is marked by a desire to be a victim. There is no searching for resolution, no desire for change, no responsibility for our part. Complaining looks like a drawn and pinched face, a “pity me” demeanor, and an eventual slip into bitterness and resentment.
Complaining is damaging; authenticity is healthy and necessary. We should share our troubles—because they are easier to shoulder and figure out with support and it benefits others to know that we are not perfect. It also draws us to God. Complaining destroys truth, blames others, demolishes relationships and separates us from God.
Most people recognize these truths, even if they do not consciously think of them. I think the majority of us want to support and encourage authenticity, even when it is painful and difficult.
The problem comes when we expect people to immediately arrive at authenticity without occasionally falling prey to complaining.
Many people, especially those of us not raised in Christian homes, do not know how important the distinction between complaining and authenticity truly is, if we even know there is a distinction to begin with. We need help and time to learn to stop complaining, while growing in authenticity.
I have a tendency to open my mouth like a flood gate whenever I have a problem. Sometimes I am sharing in an effort to seek help or support, and sometimes I just want to throw a pity party. My dearest friends have the most charming ways of listening to me and then gently and purposefully reigning me back in. They will commiserate with me and then they set me straight. They ask me hard questions, they tell me the truth, and they point out things I may have missed. But they never, ever walk away. They are my heroes.
It is up to each of us to support each other in this pursuit of our authentic selves. If we refuse to have patience with those moving through the learning process, we deny them the opportunity to grow with us and fail to recognize and extend grace to their humanity.
If we are going to have an honest, tight-knit community of women, authenticity is critical. But so is patience and grace.