Authenticity. It’s something we both long for…and fear. The idea of being real is so inviting…yet terrifying. Isn’t it?
Can I tell you three things that I’ve noticed in life about authenticity?
Number one: We start out completely authentic, as children. Have you ever noticed how unfiltered little kids are? They will say anything and everything that comes to mind. As a camp counselor, I’ve often been amazed at how willing a child can be to pour out their whole life story and the depths of their heart’s pain, to a counselor they only met three days ago. Children are so refreshingly real and trusting. In Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge write:
Lovely little six-year-old Lacey was visiting our ministry outpost the other day, going from office to office, swinging on the doorframe, and asking with a smile, “Would you like to hear my song?” Her face kissed by the sun with charming freckles, two front teeth missing, and eyes dancing with merriment, who could refuse her? She didn’t really care if she was an interruption. I doubt the thought crossed her mind. She sang her newly made-up song about puppies and kitties, fully expecting to be delighted in, then skipped down the hall to grace the occupant of the next office. She was a little girl in her glory, unashamed in her desire to delight and be delighted in.
Don’t you miss being that joyous and unguarded?
The second thing I’ve noticed– as teenagers or young adults, we are on the search for friends, for a group that will accept us, a place to belong, a friend who will be true. In the process of that search, far too often authenticity slips out of our grasp, as we try on one mask after another to see who we can best fit in with. After a while, we don’t even know who we are anymore – our childlike, authentic, beautiful selves covered up in the effort to “belong.”
Yet, eventually, we’ll come to a place where we’re just sick of the charade. We crave realness. We wish we could go back to being unashamed six-year-old Lacey. We’re tired of the fake smiles, the masks, and the effort it takes to fit in and be accepted. We long for authenticity, for ourselves and the people around us.
And the third thing I’ve learned? It’s that the friendships I have that are truly authentic… are the very best ones. Yes, they are few. I can probably count them on one hand – the people in my life that I can be completely open and real with. But I’m learning. Little by little, God is peeling away my pride, my fear, and my masks. He’s unveiling the real me, and sometimes that even means teaching me who I am and what’s in my heart, because maybe I forgot while I was trying to hide it. By grace, and gradually, He is giving me the courage to be open, authentic, and unafraid. As uncomfortable as it can be, I desperately want that in more of my friendships – to offer myself wholly and unmasked, giving freedom to other women to do the same.