Before we take aim at authenticity, let’s talk first about finding the right target. What is our purpose when we begin aiming for authenticity?
The aim of authenticity should be to build bridges. Not to burn them down.
Authenticity is about taking a risk. Revealing something true about ourselves so that we might encourage one another. And ultimately building stronger and healthier relationships. Authenticity is not an excuse for unkind words or actions.
Telling Aunt Gladys that her holiday turkey giblet and orange Jell-O salad is one reason why you dread Thanksgiving dinner is unkind. Thanking Aunt Gladys for inviting you and saying, “No, thank you. I don’t care for any,” when the jiggly concoction gets passed around the table is polite authenticity.
“I’m just telling you what I think” (spoken in that tone of voice we all recognize) is not authenticity. Harmful words and unkind behaviors are not the fruit of Spirit. They are examples of bad manners, rudeness, and selfishness. Yes, it is possible to be both truthful and kind. In fact, we are to admonish (tell the truth) and encourage (build up) one another. But just as all our behaviors must align with God’s command to love others as ourselves, so must our efforts at authenticity.
Live with honesty and integrity. Let our no be no, and our yes be yes. Help others experience our trustworthiness by being trustworthy. This is the path to authenticity. Not just spilling lots of words or baring our souls under the misguided notion that this is what authenticity looks like.
Let our authenticity be established by our actions, our humility, our honesty, our openness, and our generosity. Not our ability to over share or act selfishly. But understanding how sharing the truth about our lives might help someone live theirs with more hope. Experiencing the joy that comes from connection. The knowledge that we aren’t alone.
Be ready for the unpredictable.
Even when we are kind, our authenticity may cause problems. You might use your most polite inside voice and still cause a ruckus by passing on Aunt Gladys’ holiday specialty.
So why risk authenticity? Why not just smile politely, take the bite of Jell-O salad, and count down the minutes until you can excuse yourself? Because we are called to live in the truth. We are promised that the truth will set us free. We long for that freedom. That’s why we risk authenticity.
We grow our ability to be genuine through preparation and practice. We prepare our hearts through study, prayer, and reflection. So we will be ready to tell everyone who asks why we believe as we do. (1 Peter 3:15) But when we tell them, we are to speak with gentleness and respect. Two things that must be practiced in community.
How authenticity grows best in community is where we’ll be going next time.
Meanwhile, enjoy the truth that God loves you right where you are – in your most authentic state. But He’s got something more for you in His sights. More freedom, more peace, and more joy. And He will be using the truth to get you there.