Life is full of risks. Or at least, life contains plenty of risks that you could take if you chose. Of these, perhaps the greatest has to do with authenticity or being real.
I wish for the life of me I could remember who it was I heard talking about this the other day, but the anecdote bears repeating, even though I can’t recall who was telling the story. Some contestant on a “reality TV show” related that after filming a scene, the producer advised everyone that they needed to shoot another take because the first one wasn’t good enough. The contestant queried, “I thought this was reality TV?? Wasn’t what just happened the real deal? If so, why do we need a redo of the scene?” No one could offer a satisfactory answer to the question of why “real” action, already preserved on film, now required a second attempt, but they proceeded apace to shoot a do-over anyway, apparently unruffled by his protest.
We live in a culture where high premiums are placed on apparent authenticity, but where the genuine article is seldom practiced. And it is easy to see why. Authenticity renders a person vulnerable to the judgment of others, which all too often turn bitter. This is a fate most of us find difficult to handle. It is simpler to keep parts of ourselves masked.
I think most of us do life this way. I know I do…even though one of the comments I hear most often about myself is some variation of the statement that I’m either refreshingly candid or ruthlessly blunt, probably dependent on whether the person(s) in question appreciated or resented whatever I said or did! (Either reaction is perfectly understandable, of course, although I tend to enjoy the former more!)
A few things seem obvious to me.
1) Not all the relationships we have with every person in our lives are equal in depth or durability. Most of the people we encounter range from acquaintances to casual friends. Most of us wouldn’t risk expressing polarizing opinions to these groups of people for obvious reasons, one of them being that it very well may not be worth the possible ensuing fallout.
2) People who seem compelled to loudly point out every conceivable fact about an issue or a person to anyone who will listen range from annoying to boorish. Who wants THAT??
3) At the end of the day, though, authenticity should be about TRUTH. Life’s journey is about the pursuit of truth, then trying to align oneself with the dictates of truth once one discovers what the truth is. Along the way, a relative few relationships are formed. With those people, is it not a person’s obligation to be as authentic as possible?
4) In a larger sense, then, shouldn’t a person who is striving to live a truthful life avoid shying away from authenticity as much as possible? Doesn’t a truthful life involve as little artifice and as much honesty as God, family and friends deserve? I would suggest an affirmative response to both of the above questions is in order.
I have been contemplating all of the above factors as I start writing here and there again. I don’t care equally about every subject, but one decision I have made is going to manifest itself in my blogging in the days ahead: If it’s a subject, personality, situation or just a basic truth that I care about, I refuse to shy away from stating how I view it and why. Life is too short to obfuscate my point out of fear of blowback, either from friends or opponents. Yet, humility and graciousness remain worthwhile pursuits. I have changed my mind before, sometimes against my own will, and it will probably happen again! Sometimes, in fact, that has only occurred when I was jolted out of a comfortably, but erroneously held opinion…but that’s another story for another day.
I guess the bottom line here is this: I may not know how to live a completely authentic life, but I am more convinced than ever that it is a worthy goal to strive for. Jesus Christ didn’t refer to Himself as the “Way, the Truth and the Life” (emphasis mine) in a mere poetic turn of phrase; He meant what He said. If I seek to pattern my own life after His, then authenticity in relationships and truth in how I present myself has to be the standard for which I strive, even while acknowledging that I regularly fall short of both.