…. or …. Living A Life of Authenticity.
Authenticity – The quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine. – American Heritage Dictionary
I’ve been wrestling with the notion of authenticity recently or perhaps it has been wrestling with me.
I was listening to my parish priest the other day speak about parents bringing their children to the Church for baptism. As he noted, we won’t seen them again until confirmation. After that, we won’t see them again until they get married, they need to be buried or they run into trouble and seek the help of God (demanding instant help, of course). Other than that, God has no place in their lives and yet they can be quite demanding when they are in need. They also note on the census form that they are Christians, using their own definition.
I was recently exposed to a group of speakers discussing personal empowerment. Some of the subjects included how respect and honesty for fellow man were keys to success and that self-actualization techniques and a positive belief structure could manifest anything we want.
In private, the speakers admitted through action and word that respect and honesty for fellow man is a waste of time. The real world, they believe, is a d0g-eat-dog world where you need to lift a dollar out of a gullible person’s pocket before someone else does anyway. If you don’t like what they are doing, then you can “get over it” (a direct quote from one of them).
I know of some people who recently started a new business about helping people become financially successful . They cite their own success as the model they wish to teach to others.
Unfortunately, those of us who know these individuals know that some are in bankruptcy or are about to become bankrupt. Keep in mind, they are not teaching people lessons learned from their experience, something that would be incredibly powerful and useful. They are teaching people to follow their example to reap the result they have reaped. Their unfortunate followers don’t know the truth about what their teachers have harvested.
Last week, I was in a coffee shop and sat next to the pastoral committee for a local church. For the hour they were there, they discussed how everybody in their church are idiots (actually they used the F-bomb liberally) and complained about how these alleged imbeciles interfered with their plans to control the church the way they felt it needed to be controlled. Excellent church leadership, I noted to myself – I wonder what model they were following!
Of all the wonderful business people I have worked with, I have also experienced some business leaders who publically wave the flags of teamwork, growth, learning and contribution and in private, lambast employees and share personal and private matters of their employees with others because it helps them feel important. How about those leaders who set their team members up for failure before the employee exposes them for the hypocrites or incompetent leaders that they are?
Don’t get me wrong, there are great leaders out there. However, we need a lot more of them.
How about the person who blows up an abortion clinic and kills some of the staff and patients there because the bomber believes that all human life must be preserved at all cost?
What about the person who feels compelled to criticize you incessantly under the guise of “I’m a friend telling you this for your own good” but when you return the “favor”, you are criticized for sticking your nose into someone else’s business or not knowing what you are talking about?
How about the politician that ………………. Wait – let’s not go there (there are some good politicians also!) :-)
I wonder if many of the challenges we are experiencing right now in the world stem from a lack of authenticity. We are too busy being one thing in public and another thing in private.
How difficult this makes our life. For some of us, it means balancing the actions that we take against good, strong core values that we possess because we fear that if we follow our core values, it may cost us a job, a relationship, prestige or something else important to us.
For others, it means pretending to have good, strong core values in public while in private, wrestling with the frustration that strong values get in the way of everything. For those people, they feel that the only way to be successful is to portray what they believe the public wants to see.
Either way, it means that a lot of us are off balance as we move through life at a million miles per hour and live a life out of congruence with our belief structures.
I am not criticizing the people in either scenario. The reasons we do these things are based on our genetics and our life experiences. If we had the same genetics and life experiences as someone we are criticizing, we would in fact be just like them. This is a sobering thought that should lead us to respect everyone else a lot more.
So it is not the people who are inauthentic that is the issue – it is the act of being inauthentic itself that has become problematic.
It prevents us from being who we really are and thereby really unleashing our incredible talents and abilities. As long as we are pretending to be someone else, then we are holding back something, living our life while holding back our reserves strategically “for the most appropriate time”. Many of us go to our grave without having used many of our incredible gifts and talents. As Wayne Dyer and others have warned us not to do – "”Don’t go to your grave with your music still in you”.
Someone once asked me what would happen if people could just be themselves and follow their heart. I said there would be at least 10,000 more bad poets in the world. We laughed at that but it occurs to me now – it would be better to have 10,000 happy (but bad) poets than 10,000 people who are unfulfilled and creating troubles for themselves and others because they are acting out of congruence with their core values.
Here is an interesting exercise I encourage you to try. At the end of the day, write down a list of all the people who annoyed or disappointed you and how they annoyed or disappointed you.
Take a close look at the list when you have finished compiling it. After you have examined the list, it would be interesting to see how many of these things originate from others versus how many actually originate from within ourselves but we see them reflected in others. It’s an interesting insight into areas of our own life that we might want to polish up a bit.
I recently disconnected myself from electronica for a couple of weeks to provide me with an opportunity to just be – to think about my life experiences in a number of areas:
- the incredible gifts and opportunities I have been given
- the strengths and talents I have developed
- the areas where I need to improve and grow
- my abilities
- my personality
- my preferences in just about everything
- my education experiences
- the places I have traveled
- my friends
- my work experiences
- my family
I am grateful for the entire collection of memories, the good and the bad.
However, as I worked through this process, I realized I have been in a struggle for authenticity for a number of years and didn’t realize it until I took the time to slow down to just think. I also realized that this lack of authenticity wasn’t allowing me to shine in all aspects of my life as my public and private personas clashed in a never-ending battle for supremacy. There has been a inner restlessness that I have wrestled with for years as my public and private intentions and execution clashed.
I often danced with “who I want to be when I grow up” and made suggestions and hints to some people about the next phase in my life. However, I never embraced the next phase nor followed through with it.
Today the battle ends as I embrace that which is important to me – the core values that permeate me and define who I am.
Today I dedicate myself to a life of faith and service to God, following a Path I believe God has called me to follow. I am involved in a discernment process which I hope will lead me to a life of ordained service within the Church, bringing my skills, talents and strengths to a global organization that is empowered to help others but which needs an injection of new blood, broader life experiences and new thinking in order to achieve more positive results.
I believe that my life experiences have prepared me for this decision and it is a calling I am humbled and privileged to answer. Maybe I should write a book - “From Wall Street to Ordination – A Journey of Gratitude”. :-)
Where will this take me ultimately? I have no idea. However, I do know that it will probably be the first time in my life that I have been 100% authentic with myself and frankly, I am excited to see what that produces.
How about authenticity in your life? How is your inner dialog coming? If you are in complete congruence publically and privately, I congratulate you – you are blessed.
If you are experiencing an inner dialog similar to the one I have experienced, balancing your internal values and intentions with your external execution, I encourage you to take some quality quiet time to explore your inner self, “stick your toe in the water” and explore where your mind and spirit would like to take you.
Even if you make no changes in your life, the experience can be profound and may provide a foundation for a future change for you or someone else.
Yours in service and servanthood.