authenticity: an impossibility?

As I listened to Brooke Fraser’s song “Scarlet” while driving this evening, I kneaded the words in my mind, enjoying the beauty and trying to find understanding. I heard the words

This very moment
Of timid and fragile honesty
Is precious and rare and fleeting

and I thought, yes. Aren’t those moments always fleeting? Yet I crave them and seek them. When I find them, either in the presence of myself (and God) or with another person, I feel nothing but “timid and fragile,” but know in a deeper place that authenticity is “precious and rare and fleeting.”

Christians love to talk about authenticity. It’s a buzzword. It sounds great, and it is great. But it’s not easy. A lot of times, when we say we want it, we mean we want it on our terms. We want to go to a certain depth and stop. I am that way. It is hard for me to go past a certain vulnerability point with anyone, even God (and He’s usually easier because I know that He already knows everything).

So is it impossible to be completely authentic? If so, does that mean everyone who chooses to be vulnerable in one area but not another (or with one person but not another) is a fake?

I think the answer to both questions is “no.”

The human heart is like an onion. When I begin to trust someone, I peel back a layer of my heart and let that person see another facet of who I am. As the trust deepens, there goes another layer of onion skin. It’s possible to reach the center layer, but I won’t go there with every person I meet. That would be foolish. God designed me with built-in defenses, and He wired me for specific relationships: to relate differently to different people. I don’t interact with my mom in the same way that I communicate with my best friend. And I don’t meet someone on the street and immediately tell her about my emotional or spiritual struggles.

Authenticity is a goal, but also a process. It requires patience, courage, and discernment. It is frightening…and beautiful.

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3 Responses

  1. Love these thoughts, Jessica. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Completely agreed… very well-stated thoughts, Jess!

  3. Jessica,

    This is a fascinating post. I’ve been mulling it around for a while now, and wonder if you are speaking about “authenticity” or really about “openness”? These two ideas seem very different to me. I believe that you can be authentic all of the time, while still closing yourself off from certain people or situations. The authenticity about how you feel may be alerting you to the fact that you are not ready emotionally to engage in a certain type of discussion with someone out of safety for yourself or for the other person.

    On the flip – side:
    You can also be open, but not necessarily openly authentic. People that are really quick to divulge a lot about themselves are in a way open, but maybe in a “shallow” sense and not authentic within themselves (or dealing with their issues) about why they feel the need to express so much, so quickly.

    In my opinion, the only time someone is truly inauthentic, is when he or she is in denial about how he or she is actually feeling about something and dishonest within the self – or blatantly lying to someone of course. 🙂

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