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Unswerving Authenticity

Unswerving Authenticity

What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? — Jesus in Mark 8:36 NKJV

I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God…

Pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. — Ephesians 3:14-19, Ephesians 4:1-3

“Real isn’t how you were made. It’s a thing that happens to you,” said the toy horse. “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”

This old toy horse in Margery Williams’s classic children’s story The Velveteen Rabbit not only squarely identifies the second essential step to health and wholeness, but wisely notes that it is the result of being loved.

Profound significance is the precursor to unswerving authenticity.

Without the foundation of knowing we are unconditionally loved, we cannot risk being authentic or real. But once we claim our significance and recognize its durability over time, we cultivate the rich soil of the soul for authenticity to take root.

What is authenticity? It’s what separates the genuinely loving person from the person who wants to be seen as loving. It makes no room for imitation or fakery. No space for “phoning it in.” There’s no going through the motions. Authenticity divides those who walk the walk from those who merely talk it. When you are real, your head and heart work in harmony. You are the same person behind the curtain as you were onstage. You no longer perform to win love — that was settles when you embraced your significance. No. You’ve dismissed the audience from your life and tossed the script. Instead, who you are determines what you do. You are genuine.

Authenticity is all about being rather than doing.

When you focus on being genuinely loving, for example, the actions naturally follow. They are not contrived. There’s no pretense. You don’t wonder what you should do. Your doing flows naturally from your being. Health and wholeness mature at a remarkable rate as this important process unfolds.

And vulnerability is key to unswerving authenticity. Consider this statement: “You’re the first person I have ever been completely honest with.” Every psychologist has heard this sentence hundreds of times. But it was Sidney Jourard who made sense of them in his in-depth book The Transparent Self. He was puzzled over the frequency with which patients were more honest and authentic with a clinician than they were with family or friends. After much study, he concluded that each of us has a natural, built-in desire to be known, but we often stifle our vulnerability with the significant people in our lives out of fear. We’re afraid of being seen as too emotional or not emotional enough, as too assertive or not assertive enough. We’re afraid of rejection.

The result? We wear masks. We put up our guard. In Margery Williams’s story, the toy rabbit didn’t know real rabbits existed. He thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself. “And he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles.” The rabbit kept authenticity at bay through his fear of being found out. He never wanted to risk vulnerability.

But we are never authentic until we admit our frustrations, acknowledge our weaknesses, and disclose our insecurities. We are never real until we open our wounded hearts. Everyone’s heart has been wounded. But most people would rather protect their wounds than divulge them. Healthy people, however, make personal wounds available to others when needed.

No one has written more sensitively on the gift of vulnerability than Henri Nouwen in his book The Wounded Healer. He points out that “making one’s own wounds a source of healing… does not call for a sharing of superficial personal pains but for a constant willingness to see one’s own pain and suffering as rising from the depth of the human condition.”

The point is that healthy, authentic people do not pretend to have it all together. They do not present themselves as something they are not.

They are honest about their imperfections, problems, inadequacies, and pain. They do not relegate their dark side to the basement of their personality. They do not try to disown their failings or ignore their weaknesses. Instead, they use them to propel themselves forward.

Think of it this way. If four people had to push a car in need of gas across a street, what would be the best way for them to push? Obviously, all four of them pushing together in the same direction would maximize their likelihood of reaching the common goal. When they align their efforts, they multiply their power and optimize their efficiency.

Now imagine that this car represents your personality. And what you think, feel, say, and do are the four people trying to get the car across the street. For you to reach your highest goals, these four separate parts of you must work in alignment, all headed in the same direction. Together.

Being who you really are means lowering your defenses.

It may even mean a few acts of daring vulnerability now and then. It’s the only way to grow. If you are pushing and pulling in all sorts of directions, not at all in alignment within yourself, your progress will be painfully slow. But if you find your way to inner harmony, if you get real, you will begin to move on a sure and steady course to a deeply meaningful and satisfying life.

Abraham Maslow called this — the working together of the separate parts of you — congruency. He considered it a major requirement for attaining the top level of his hierarchy of needs: fulfillment. We experience the peak of fulfillment when we become congruent. When we are all of a piece. Our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions are in sync. All the parts of us are striving together to help us reach our potential.

In every moment, then, our focus remains fixed on being the person we truly are. This unflinching determination to be authentic may lose us some friends or cost us some memberships or jobs, but the gains of being true to ourselves far outweigh the cost.

While everyone seems to have a plan for what we should do, the healthy person knows their purpose — the road God called them to follow.

They stay on that road. Paul was so enthusiastic about unswerving authenticity in following this path that he urged us to not only walk but run on the path God calls us to travel (Ephesians 4:1). This means we need to recognize what that path is and be authentically true to following that call — despite what others might think or say. No more suffering from the “disease to please.” Instead, we are unswervingly authentic. How do we do this? Two actions: (1) we must uncover our blind spots to clearly see what God is showing us, and (2) we must face whatever fears are preventing us from following God’s call.

When you get a lock on your profound significance and become more unswervingly authentic, emotional well-being takes a quantum leap. You rely on an internal gyroscope that keeps your bearings steady instead of tiptoeing around, guessing what you think others want you to be.

What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? — Jesus, in Mark 8:36 NKJV

Excerpted with permission from Healthy Me, Healthy Us by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott, copyright Les Parrott.

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Your Turn

Are you authentically yourself? Are your separate parts all working together congruently? That’s important! We’re not called to be people-pleasers! Come share your thoughts with us! ~ Devotionals Daily