The Duplicity of Authenticity

Let’s talk about “authenticity” for a minute.  You hear the word everywhere.  Be authentic.  Be real.  Be vulnerable.  This is the millennial mantra. But do we mean it?  Do we really, really mean it?  Maybe we do.  But don’t we also naturally recoil at others’ messes, and hide our own truest hurts behind painted on smiles and guarded eyes?  It’s duplicitous, really. 

To be duplicitous is to be contradictory in doubleness of thought, to be deceptive, or  to cheat.  I talk about duplicity often because as multifaceted beings, we humans easily fall prey to being two-faced.   Not always on purpose, but because we can’t help ourselves.  We lie, we change, we blend to fit in, and sometimes we outright change our minds. (It’s happened to me mid-sentence, mid-argument!)

From a young age we are taught to be honest, but not too honest, because candor is harmful.  We are encouraged to be vulnerable, but not too vulnerable, because you can’t trust everyone.  Be translucent, but not transparent, because only God knows the heart fully and we are loathe to be misjudged.

Society may demand authenticity, but polite society flinches at it’s rawness. We recoil at vulnerability like we’re embarrassed by the “over share.”  It’s no wonder we’re so lonely.

As a private person, I don’t deny that I’d rather keep most parts of myself from prying eyes.  I have also seen and lived in the liberty that comes from revealing those broken parts to another in open confession.

People meet at the point of their vulnerability.  Friendships are forged in the fires of compassion that follow brokenness being revealed.  True friendships begin when you bring all of yourself to someone and they pull back the curtain saying, “Me too!”

Now, I’m not advising we share ourselves mindlessly to anyone within earshot.  We must give of ourselves wisely, but we must give of ourselves.  Compassion and empathy is where people meet and bond.  We can never know true love, or unconditional love if we hold parts of ourselves back.  We connect at the points of our vulnerability, like joints or hinges on a door. 

Connecting like this messy.  It can be painful.  There will be many opportunities for misunderstandings.   Relationships, like people, are alive and changing.  They are not born and bred in silos.  Dead things reside in silos.  Living things live in dirt, and they must be tilled and watered and cared for.  Mud and all. 

Experience teaches us to fear confession.  Once upon a time, as children, we were brazen. Unafraid.  As time passed, ridicule mounted and shame crept in to cover all the “ugly” parts of us.  We could no longer look at the ungrateful, improper, out-of-line parts of ourselves without cringing.  While wisdom sought to teach us discretion, experience taught us to defend the shameful bits by hiding.  

These two are not the same thing.  Defensiveness keeps us from confessing at all, while discretion keeps us conscious of who we confess to.  But we must confess.  We are called to. (James 5:16)  It’s one of the reasons why God has given us to one another.  We confess to be reminded of our forgiveness; forgiveness already bought for us so long ago.  In very large part, this reminder is what the household of faith is for.  I’ve said it before, but people are longing for permission to struggle.  They are longing to be known and accepted in their sinful weakness.  We are all still longing for a safe place to be made whole, amongst the crowd.  

For all that humans are, we aren’t created to overcome, or even manage life’s trials alone or in hiding.  The Church was commanded to carry one another’s burdens, not mask them.

So, be authentic.  Be real.  Be vulnerable.  Be quick to create a confessional culture and be courageous enough to confess.  But most of all, don’t be afraid to forge friendships in the fires of compassion because those bonds don’t break down when we do. 
Until next time.