What does it mean for us to be authentic people?
Does it mean being honest with others and with ourselves? Yes it does. But there are all sorts of ways and dimensions of being ‘honest’ aren’t there? If we are foolish enough to try to always be completely honest with other people we will not have a happy life. Other people, despite what they may say, are not interested in our honesty in these circumstances. They want to feel OK about themselves, what they wear, and what they do. Our honesty in these circumstances needs to be tempered by care and concern for people. Despite this there are circumstances when complete honesty is called for, and although its hard to give definitive guidelines, most functioning adults would have no trouble identifying these occasions, or at least their consciences would.
I would argue that although complete honesty with others is an art that is learned and managed through experience, we cannot even begin the journey until or unless we are first completely honest with ourselves.
Honesty with ourselves?
It starts with knowing and accepting ourselves as we actually are, rather than as we would want others to see us. Most of us already know ourselves pretty well, but how many of us accept ourselves? The popularity of image, lifestyle coaches, gym memberships and even excessive consumption of alcohol is evidence that we do not always easily accept ourselves. There is a host of things we use to fill our lives in one way or another. Not all of these things are wrong or bad in any way, unless we use them to avoid the reality of who we are.
Being honest with ourselves can be scary. Unless we are brave enough to do that though, we can never be authentic persons. Authenticity in this sense is realising and accepting that we are not perfect and will never be so. This is not an encouragement for us to abandon standards and behave as if what we do doesn’t matter. Quite the opposite. It is only when we can face our imperfections honestly and accept the consequences they bring, that we are in a position to look at those around us as they really are. It is only at this stage that real relationships are possible and a fulfilled authentic life becomes a possibility.
This is consistent with Christian teaching and when we grasp it we can appreciate more fully the central message of the Christian Gospel.
Confession, forgiveness and new life
If we cannot confess our imperfections, our brokenness, even to ourselves, how are we able to forgive ourselves? How then can past damage be repaired and new life discovered?
Christians believe that God sees us intimately and understands us at the deepest level, and still accepts us as part of the family. This is an enormously transformational belief (should I have said ‘relief’?). Realising that our creator considers us to be worth his time and his love, we are free to accept his forgiveness and ourselves as we are. We are no longer slaves to what other people think of us or demand that we be. I refer Country and Western fans to Kasey Chambers’ ‘Am I not pretty enough?’, but the theme is found throughout popular media and culture.
At Peace, we encourage each other to be authentic; honest with and accepting of ourselves. In this environment then, we are able to be accepting of others and real relationships are free to grow.