Recently I sat around a table with college girls I mentor and with an older, wiser woman from our church who had invited us over to her home. Mrs. Melinda began asking about each of us and it was not very long before we looked like we were shooting a commercial for Kleenex. As each girl shared, it felt like I was being invited into sacred territory. How nice it was to listen to everyone else’s struggles and stories! Mrs. Melinda looked at me and I started squirming in my seat like I did in 4th grade when I would get busted for talking to Matt Roberts in class. Long story short, I had a hard time being exposed in front of others. I do not even remember what she asked, but a dam broke and before I knew it I was talking about things that I had believed for so long that she called out as lies. Man, I wrestled with wanting to save face or justify, but I could not, and it isn’t because I did not want to, God just said, “It is time to be authentic with me.” So I too took a turn and sat there looking like a main character in a Kleenex commercial and I survived. The story is still unfolding, but it was a start.
Authenticity is a word that is overused and under-applied. We love us some authenticity when others are sharing or when we share about something we “used to struggle” with. This whole real time sharing right smack dab in the middle is a whole other ballgame. Risking to be seen and known by a trusted few will change us.
God said it is not good for man to be alone. A lot of people use that verse to argue marriage, but I believe it is about him wanting us to be in community; a place where we do not hide. Adam and Eve hid and God asked the very first question we see in Scripture and that is, “Where are you?” Which when you think about it is pretty funny because he is God and he knows, so there was purpose in his question. He asked the question so they could come out of hiding.
What are ways we can block authenticity?
- Silently judge with a smile on our face (avoid conflict or hard conversations)
- Isolate and avoid
- Wrongly assume oversharing is being authentic
- Fake it ’til you make it (refuse to honor emotion unless it is in private)
Over the years here is what I have noticed about friends who are authentic:
- they do not feel the need to rescue others
- they know Who they belong to
- they risk real connection vs. false connection
- they see that relating honestly draws them out of isolation
- they allow the Holy Spirit to help them stay connected
As we begin to see that we are created in the image of God – Father, Son, Spirit – we begin to see how they relate perfectly. We have a lot to learn from The Trinity. The only perfectly authentic community that’s ever existed. There’s such beauty in learning how to relate like they do.
What are ways we can create an environment of allowing others to choose authenticity?
1. Be curious – pay attention to your friends and ask genuine questions that come from a place of curiosity. The temptation to just want someone to ask us questions can keep us stuck. So learn to be a better question asker. It usually begins with curiosity.
2. Show up. With one of my college girls this has become a mantra. When she is wanting to hide or pretend like everything is ok, we say to her, “Show up! Show us who you are!” Jesus showed up after his Resurrection and his scars are what identified him to Thomas. The very thing we try to hide can be a marker of God’s faithfulness in our lives.
3. Develop trust by sharing some of your own journey, struggles and JOYS in real time.
4. Consider environment. Is this a safe place to risk? Give honest answers according to the situation. I have had to learn this the hard way. A couple of years ago I risked repeatedly on people I should never have shared with. I wanted to trust them so badly that I kept going back for more and it bit me in the butt. So I’m learning who to trust and that it is ok not to share with everyone, but to pay attention to the Spirit of God inside of you.
5. Be ok with awkward – you don’t have to fill up the space. You all know what I am talking about. Sometimes we drift over into the inauthentic place of filling space because you feel you have to carry a conversation. Guess what? You don’t have to do that anymore. 🙂 You can be silent and awkward too.
6. Post a picture of you on social media yelling at your spouse, parent or child. Or post a status that says, “My life is a crap hole today and I want to eat a gallon of ice cream and smoke a pack of cigs.” Ok, I jest, but you get the picture.
Repeat after me:
“My choosing to be authentic cannot be solely dependent on how someone else will or will not respond to me. The beauty of authenticity is that it gets to be dependent on the Holy Spirit.”
If you have stuck with me through this long post, congratulations. I pray you show up today to the people around you, even when it is hard. I pray you show up when it is good too. Authenticity matters because we were created in the image of God and God has never been anything but who HE IS, and that is a beautiful invitation.