Chivalry died long ago. But currently in our society, slowly sucking on its last breaths, is authentic honesty. In a culture where people speak in Facebook statuses, smile Instragram pretenses, finish thoughts with @youknowwho, hashtagphrasesthatforevercementgrammaticalerrors, and abbreviate everything because “ain’t nobody got the time for that,” it’s next to impossible to find sincerity and truthfulness.
Luckily in my life, two people come to mind who keep me grounded in authenticity. My friend, colleague, and fellow blogger Heather can be sharp around the edges, but I never doubt how she views me. She is true to herself, and thus one of the most genuinely real people I have the joy of knowing and calling friend. Another is a long time friend Laura. I have known her for many years, and throughout that time, I have always admired (and still do) how she is never fake. She spends most of her time openly and honestly reflecting rather than portraying some alabaster ideal of what’s supposed to be. Being friends with both these women is a refreshing breath of air in a culture polluted with the fumes of false faces.
I want to be that fresh air for others. What does that require?
- Courage. To be raw and real requires risk. Some people might not like who I am, and others might not like how my authentic self calls them out on their own discrepancies. But despite the responses–or perhaps in spite of them–I need to be me.
- Cogitation. I was reminded of this through Numbers 13:25-33. When Caleb stood up and called for the Israelites to take over Canaan, the people immediately began spreading hyperbole saying: “[the] land devours its inhabitants,” and “all the people that we saw in it are of great height.” Was it true? Somewhat. But what was truer, deeper, beneath was their own fear and insecurity–which they hid with tainted responses. To be authentic, I must search below what I want to say to break down what I should be saying instead. Only in those gaps between thought and voice can I really find myself…and give of myself honestly. Mindfulness matters.
- Challenge. There can be no honesty when all is smooth seas. It is in the challenge in communication, the challenge in community, that I discover how honest I can be–both with myself and with others. To come home and live an isolated life requires very little tension and testing of my authenticity. But to dare, to question, to broach, to venture, to misjudge, to mistake, to eat my words, to apologize, to reflect, to see someone beside myself in the reflection of my truest self–that is where the tried and tested, tangled glory of authenticity happens.
- Congruence. Because we as Americans live dual lives–flesh and blood versus online–it is far too easy to say one thing and do another. But if I am going to be authentically honest, my actions must be congruent with my words. This takes sacrifice. Either I sacrifice my time to be faithful in what I said I was going to do. Or I sacrifice my pride by saying no and establishing boundaries. Either way, I mean what I say and do what I mean.