Do you pretend to be somebody else when you’re with others? That’s quite a challenging question, and one I want to speak about for a few minutes. So often, we pretend to be someone we’re not around people whose approval we crave, instead of being authentic. It’s a strange thing, but we can tell if someone is being real with you, or they’re putting it on. Hard to explain. But it’s about being authentic.
So what does being authentic mean? The dictionary describes it as being genuine and original. It could also mean being true and trustworthy. Bottom line, anyway you look at it comes across in a positive light. Who wouldn’t want to be authentic? Do you have what it takes to be your full out genuine self? What would that do for you? Let’s take a look at that definition again. It means you are:
- original: you are already a unique human being therefore you get to be you. No pretending to be someone else. It’s all you. There is no script to follow.
- genuine: that means you are able to express your inner self and be the loving, kind-hearted, generous person that you heart longs to be.
Imagine being your true self? How would that feel? Would that give you inner peace and contentment? Think of it as God saying to you, “I love you just the way you are. Don’t change a thing.” That doesn’t mean changing your behaviour if he speaks to you about wrong ways in your life. That’s a different matter. But it means you can stop pretending to be someone else.
It seems to me that fear is the big problem here:
- “If you knew me—really knew me—you may not like me, and you might reject me. Since I am afraid of rejection, I can’t really get close to you, or let you get close to me”.
- “If I am transparent and share my closest secrets and ideas, you will crush me. So the safest way is to keep my distance or put on a mask of pretence. Remember, I tried once before. I trusted someone once and got burned in the process. I was hurt, betrayed, humiliated—so I won’t get close to you or let you get close to me”.
I think that’s how many of us think. But these feelings are real. I acknowledge the fact there is pain in a broken relationship. To have your trust betrayed really hurts.
In the Old Testament in the Bible, we have the story of a guy who went through this kind of pain. You may know his story. His name is Job. He experienced unbelievable stress and loss. More than most of us ever will. And in trying to cope with bad news, he invited some very close friends into the innermost parts of his life. But things went from bad to worse. His friends, instead of standing with him in support, criticised him and said he must be a terrible sinner to deserve all his loss. They gossiped about him, talked behind his back and said all sorts of bad things.
Job was devastated. In Job 19:19 we read him saying, “All of my intimate friends detest me. Those I love have turned against me”. How did Job deal with all this? We’re not sure, but it appears he dealt with it and kept his faith intact. It’s worth reading the chapter of Job.
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Many people have been wounded in life because of pain in the past. And what happens? They build walls of protection to stop another episode. I won’t get close to you in case I get hurt like last time. But there’s a downside. We become distant and fearful of others. We don’t want to get hurt again. We can begin to cover up, lie, pretend and deny. Barriers take root in our lives and we are hindered from receiving the blessings that come from authentic relationships.
It means I’m not transparent. And that’s also a shame. Transparent people are those who have no pretence or deceit. They are honest, authentic and real. What beautiful qualities. It is simply removing the mask I might wear and be myself with others. I feel safe that I can be myself around others. I can show up anywhere and be real. In this way, our true self is exposed.
I think the best way to be real is to give your life to Jesus Christ. Be a humble and truthful person. Jesus said, “I have come to give you life in all its fullness”. We have been created to live life to the full, until our dying moment. And with Jesus helping, it is possible. We enter eternal life now when we give our lives to him, and our mission changes. Our relationship with God is restored, and we can enjoy life to its fullest level, each day, each moment, living in his presence.