THE ABIDING LIFE
By Gwen Sellers
I recently had a friend connect the concept of authenticity with that of winsomeness. And it's so true. There have been several people in my life who have defied regular social boundaries to whom I have been undeniably attracted. They over-share, ask intrusive questions, host company in a messy house, admit to having odd tastes, don't pretend they know things they don't, laugh aloud at potty humor — all the things that people in "polite society" don't do. They aren't trying to fit in or impress anyone. They are just being who they are no matter who else is around. All this I observe only apart from their presence. It has never come across as strange in the moment. In fact, I find it quite winsome. I love being around these people. I answer their intrusive questions without shame. They are so comfortable with themselves that I can't help but be comfortable with them. More than that, I find myself being comfortable in my own skin when around them. It's not just that what they do is okay for them; they make me feel like it's okay to be my unadulterated self, too.
Why is that? John Lynch and the True Faced crew talk about the concept of masks (if you've not read The Cure, it's an excellent book). It's basically playing the game. Often, we go around wearing masks that we think will make us lovable. We're pretty certain that the real us is not okay. So we keep up a fake persona. The problem is that even if people love our fake persona, we don't actually feel loved. If you only ever see my mask, my heart doesn't get the care it needs. In order to keep up the illusion of being loved, I have to maintain the mask. It's an endless cycle that leads to dead souls. Authentic people are winsome because they take off their own masks. In doing so, they hint at the reality that it's okay for me to do the same.
People who know me are likely laughing as they read this. I've been on a journey of authenticity myself. I've found it quite rewarding. In the early days, I definitely over-shared, and not necessarily in a good way. I think there is a learning curve — sometimes holding one's tongue is best. Not everyone needs to know everything. Even now my brain-to-mouth filter is a bit dysfunctional. I was recently given a comic strip about how not every thought in one's mind needs to come out the mouth. I generally catch myself after I've already started to say something, which is pretty useless. I open my mouth, get out the start of a word, then say, "Mmm, never mind. Don't need to share that." Well that's awkward. Then there are those times I don't catch myself and later observe how weird I am. I'll ask someone an intrusive question and then say, "That's pretty personal. Please don't feel you need to answer that." Recently I even told a person new to our small group, "Sorry, I'm weird. But at least we got that over with in the early days." Who does that?
But, you know what? I've found out that people don't think I'm all that strange. Or maybe they do, but they seem willing to keep me around anyway. I really like that. I find it's a lot easier to live out who I am than it is to try to live up to whatever standards I think "polite society" has. Living authentically means I no longer exert energy keeping up a mask. That energy gets freed up to connect with other people. When I'm not concerned about how I come across, I can actually listen to people.
And yet ...
As much as I'd like to think I'm self-confident and authentic all the time, that isn't the truth. No doubt I am much more comfortable in my own skin than I was several years ago. But I'm still scared. A mask still exists. Peeling away the self-protective walls and the public persona to allow the real me out has been life-giving. Yet I'm afraid to go all the way. What if the deepest, truest parts about me aren't lovable? What if someone really knew everything, really got intimate? Would I still be deemed okay?
You know what? Those questions arise because I've bought into a lie of the Enemy. It's a common lie. Sadly one I perpetuate. It's the lie that I am unworthy of love and therefore must hide myself or change myself to earn love. The problem is, there is a bit of truth in that lie. I am a sinner by nature. I do not deserve God's grace. But He gave it. Willingly. Expectantly. With love and not contempt. He created me to begin with. Even did so in His image. How could I be any more lovable than that?
Community was meant to be real, which often means messy. Messy does not mean bad. Messy isn't even always ugly. Sometimes messy isn't even unpleasant. Yes, "messy" means that sin is involved, that hurt is involved, that we see the naked truth of why Jesus had to come to redeem us. But sometimes it also just means people laugh aloud at potty humor. There is beauty in that. The human condition is undeniably tragic. And yet it is also undeniably hopeful and beautiful. If I'm not willing to be really real about myself — both with myself and with other people — then how can God's redemption be really real? If I won't look at the depths of my need, I won't understand the magnitude of His grace. And if I'm not willing to share all of that with someone else, how can God be fully glorified?
I'm not sure what all of this means for me, or for you. But I know that I want to continually be more truthful. I want to trust God enough with my heart and to rely on His love enough that I am willing to risk myself in relationship. I want to continue to enjoy the authentic people in my life. I want to be an authentic person for someone else. I want the beauty. I want the mess. I want life — life to the full, all the experiences. It's going to hurt. But it's also going to feel so right. This is what we were made for, to be human, to do life together, to learn to live with one another in the reality of God's grace. There is no pretense with Him. He sees beyond the mask. He redeems what needs to be redeemed there. He refines what needs to be refined. And He delights in the process of it all. No games. No "polite society." Just people He loves to the uttermost.
Image Credit: chiaralily; "Breaking Free"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Health-Wellness | Personal-Life | Personal-Relationships | Womens-Issues
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Published on 12-10-14