Authenticity, Part II
The other day at church a friend of mine came up to me and put her arm around me and told me that she really liked me. It made my day. But I was a little surprised at myself. I never took myself for one of those people who needed a hug or smile to recall my self-worth. I was sure I had enough security without the reassurance of others. But let’s face it, I am one of those people. I like to know, and especially to hear that someone likes me. Is that such a bad thing though? The more I think about it the more I realize how human that is. How real it is. So now I want to hug everyone and quit pretending that I don’t need their attention. I want to be sincere. I want to be totally genuine and treat people the way my conscience tells me to treat them.
Going back to my last post about authenticity. I’ve broken it down into two thoughts.
1. Making judgement
2. Everything thereafter
So my first task is to train myself to make careful and cautious judgements. Sometimes judgements are necessary. A mother looking for adoptive parents for her unborn child has to make some very important judgements, with what might seem like grossly inadequte time or information. But some judgements are hurtful and result in great loss. My new catch-phrase for judging is a line from a hymn. “In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.” I’ve learned this lesson many times and yet still I criticize.
My next task is the “thereafter”. In my relationships with people I want to try to break down the selfish barriers that protect me from vulnerability and prevent me from realness. This is a particular weakness for me. I am so afraid of rejection that I avoid making invitations. I am so worried about being annoying that I don’t make a phone call just to talk. I want to protect someone’s feelings so I am deceptive or dishonest. (I know that sometimes that might be a good thing, but I think I do it to a fault.) I want to “relate” to my co-workers so I join in the gossip-fest. I know truth but fear keeps me from sharing it. Those are my barriers to sincerity. In one of my favorite books “Bonds That Make Us Free” C. Terry Warner sums up what I am trying to say.
“What does it take to achieve emotional intimacy? The fundamental ingredient is an awakening of each individual to others and a willing effort to respond without any personal agenda in exactly the way that seems most right, considerate, and helpful.”
I am so weary of answering questions based on all the wrong things. “What does she want me to say?” “What will make her like me?” “What will impress him?” “What would so-and-so say?” What a burden it is to muddle through all the self-agendas to get to an answer or reponse. It’s a wonder I even want to talk to people. All of my artificial dialogue is weighing me down.
In my good moments when I answer according to what I feel, what my conscience says is good, rather than what I think is the “right” answer I feel completely liberated. It feels honest and real. I usually only have the strength to be my best self when my self-confidence is strong and my heart is full of charity.
So to follow-up from my last post. I believe I can treat people the same. I can treat all people with open-mindedness and kindness, and if they feel my sincerity they might easily forgive any poor assumptions.
It seems fitting to end this pontification with another work experience. Yesterday my 83-year old patient asked me if I had had a hug yet that day. Not two seconds after I answered “No” she wrapped me in the kindest embrace. So real. So awesome. I hope it doesn’t take me 83 years to get there.