This word has become such a buzz word over the past few years!
Be your authentic self.
I mean…It’s plastered on coffee mugs, t-shirts and so much more. And I’m all about it! I’ve been aiming at being authentic since 2014. I’m certain my 2013 self would scream, “Wait! I was authentic, too!” I’m sure I was to an extent, but going through an ugly divorce will bring a person to a whole new level of vulnerability. And as I opened my eyes to a lot of ugly truths about my life while I drudged through the process of ending a horrible marriage, I realized my devastation did not come from losing my (now ex) husband. I realized I wasn’t mourning the loss of what I had; I was mourning the loss of what OTHERS thought I had. I was mourning the loss of perception…and that rocked me to my core. When you care more about how others perceive you than you do about the truth of your situation, you know you need to change your mindset. And so, I did. I had a very specific moment in which I decided to become as authentic as I possibly could. It was the single most freeing moment of my life. I shook off the idea that life was supposed to look a certain way and I embraced the reality that life was messy and unexpectantly horrible and beautiful all at the same glorious, frightening, wonderful time. I wrote blogs, so others wouldn’t feel alone; I shopped at Goodwill FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE; I lost friends who didn’t understand; I made new friends who did, and I stumbled upon the love of my life. It really was a life changing time. But the biggest lesson I learned was how healing it can be to realize that God’s love was, and always will be, enough to keep me safe enough to be vulnerably authentic. Because being authentic is scary at times and requires knowing yourself and knowing who you belong to. Being authentic means being real enough about who you are and what your circumstances are to walk along side of others while they go through their own journey. It means loving someone enough to be real with them about all the junk and all the beauty this world has to offer. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t the person who always has to be sincere. Small talk evades me in every situation, which can be utterly exhausting and PAINFULLY awkward. (Come stand next to me at a party sometime and watch someone ask, “how are you?” You’ll see what I mean! It’s a ‘Get the Popcorn’ kind of moment.) But I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything!
There is another side to this coin. For everything that authenticity is, there is something it is not: an excuse to destroy. Tearing down someone else and tying it into a pretty little bow of “authenticity” is not ok. You can’t rip someone to shreds and start an all-out war (on social media or in person) just because they don’t see the world the same as you. I’ve watched FB and Instagram over the past week after the fallout of New York’s new abortion law. My heart has broken over this law and I’ve had a really hard time even reconciling exactly how something like this could be put into place. The death of human life this law will allow is staggering. But there is another death this has caused as well: the death of human decency. I’ve read horrible, slandering things that friends have said to one another because they are on polar opposite sides of this fiery debate. I wish this was the only instance, but it’s become a daily tête-à-tête in a public forum, all under the guise of “I’m just being true to what I believe.” Living that authentic life, right? Remember 1 Peter3:15-16
“ 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
God does not call us to be silent doormats. We are the voice who fights for injustice, but we must do it with love and gentleness. We must put our personal ambitions aside and not focus on being right, but instead focus on being Christ like. Speak our minds in intimate arenas, where our voices can be heard and processed, not argued and shut out. Matthew 18:15 reminds us…
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”
My prayer for us all is that we may all have the freedom of living authentically. That we may speak truth, love those around us, serve others, wear our emotions on our shoulder and as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”