I am authentic
I am real
I am down to earth
These are all “catch phrases” that we toss around today. And it’s especially popular to hear this among Christian pastors and leaders. But how many really are?
Our pastor led the way last Sunday morning, for it to be okay to be “real” and share with us an area that he has been struggling with. It was honest and had no pretense. He was just a human being with needs and struggles like the rest of us – he experiences good times and bad, highs and lows. It was the first really honest moment I’ve witnessed from the pulpit in a long time – if ever.
Now that being said, there are some that would disagree with this approach. In fact my husband and I were both raised in an era where the pastor (or leader) had to be above reproach and almost ghost-like in perfection. That was of course, because he (or she) would never allow anyone into their world and all that was personal was highly protected. It seemed that the worst thing they could do was to let people really know who they were. The thought being, “They cannot lead others if they admit they don’t have it all together”.
Those of us from my generation and older – bought into this. We believed you couldn’t have close friends in ministry – believed that others did not want a flawed leader – believed that showing anything less than the perfect role model – would hinder the testimony of Christ. This caused a false sense of security for others trying to live up to that standard. And much guilt on the part of the minister and his family.
We discussed this dilemma much in our small group last night. All of us were there last Sunday morning to witness the beautiful worship service – and Stephen’s willingness to “go there” – for the sake of being truly authentic. And gave permission for everyone to feel the same – reach out and know that there are others that feel the same way. It was really beautiful.
As we talked about it in our group, I was very aware of the balance between “sharing” and “sharing too much”. Who can we really be that “real” with? Is it important to let people know what you’ve come from – how you handled it and how God has worked in your life? Or is it better to just talk about surface issues and keep it light?
I know it’s a touchy subject and although some, like me – are grateful for this new freedom in sharing – I know that there are some that simply don’t feel comfortable sharing – or having others share with them. It is a risk, and certainly some will even look differently at you when you open your heart. But in light of all these things – I still choose to be a more authentic me.
I am not perfect.
I struggle with thoughts.
I am selfish by nature.
I like to be right.
I like to have the last word.
I don’t have it all together.
Three years ago I went through a traumatic experience of the heart and emotions. I started writing a blog to express things I was unhappy about and things I hoped to change. I went on a journey both spiritually and emotionally and my writing was a vehicle of healing for me. I tried to be authentic about the way I was feeling. I knew it would be criticized, as a former pastor’s wife – we aren’t allowed to be sad or struggling – but I plodded along anyway. The benefit was two-fold:
1. Others read my writings and daily personal thoughts, as I searched for answers and hung on to the fact that in spite of pain – God is still good. I connected with many people who would either comment – or privately contact me on Facebook or by email – telling me how helpful and encouraging my writings were and are to them. Being authentic had a purpose after all – to others who are struggling, questioning and hurting. It provided a vehicle for them to share – and know for sure that they weren’t alone.
2. It helped me personally. My empathy and sensitivity grew with my writing journey. Things I had no patience with before – I found compassion and understanding. I found others who struggled and needed a friend to lend a hand. While helping, coaching and counseling with others – I’ve found a new purpose for things I was allowed to go through. And the friendships were and are numerous.
But there is a down-side. There always is. I have been burned by sharing myself. It’s made me more cautious – and I question things more. I wish I did not. I wish that I still believed that everyone had my best interest in mind – but now I question that too. It doesn’t entirely stop me – but it has changed me. Anytime someone doesn’t understand us or does not validate us in some way – it is very hard.
But I still choose to be a more authentic me. I choose to take the gifts and blessings God has given me – and reach out to those who need that extra help, support and love. I choose to learn from the painful, dry and empty times along my journey – and share with others what I’ve learned – how God has helped me and most of all – how it’s NOT fatal to go through times of failure, uncertainty and darkness. It’s been in those times that my heart was much more open to hearing what God was telling me. And the biggest blessings came when God didn’t answer me at all, instead gave me the tools to find joy again – by writing and opening my heart.
I encourage you today – it’s a scary thing to open up and share, but find someone you trust and have a heart-to-heart with them today. You may find that the person you’re opening up to – will do the same and there will be strength and blessing in your authenticity. Even if you’ve been hurt before – you need to trust again.
Have you ever had a truly authentic moment? This last year? This last week? How did others around you respond?
- Being Authentic (cindyholman.wordpress.com)