Most of us want to have influence. We want to have influence at work, with our group of friends and in our families. When I think of influence, I think of a dear friend of mine and a conversation that we had many years ago. I had been watching her (not in a creepy stalker way but in a WOW are you for real kind of way) and I had developed a deep respect for her. I saw how she lived out her faith and how she cared for and interacted with people and I was impressed. I saw her vulnerability and authenticity and how people responded to her because of those traits. I asked her if we could get together for coffee and when we did I stumbled all over myself to say what I meant and, ended up blurting out, "I don't know why you're different, but I want what you have. I want to be like you."
She looked at me with surprise and asked what I meant. I told her that I had been watching her, that I respected her and that I saw something different in her than I saw in other Christians and I wanted whatever it was that she had. This conversation started a multiple year discipleship process that changed my life. We moved away and don't get to visit very often anymore but I think of her frequently and she still has tremendous influence in my life. How is it possible that after all these years she still has influence with me? I can think of one word that sums it up... AUTHENTICITY. According to the Merriam- Webster dictionary authenticity is defined as "worthy of acceptance or based on fact, true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." Authenticity is brave. Authenticity is honest. Authenticity is appropriately vulnerable. Authenticity allows us to form relationships based on the truth of who someone is. My friend still has influence with me because I know that I can trust what she says. I believe her because she lives her life " true to her own personality, spirit, and character."
I was raised in a conservative Christian home and my early experience taught me that if you're a "Christian" you don't talk about the bad things going on in your life and definitely not your failures because that would mean that Jesus' work on the cross didn't do anything for you. Instead, you deny them, hide them and pretend that you are living a "blessed" life. Please understand, I'm not against Christians or conservative churches in fact I'm very pro Christian and pro church. I'm sharing my personal experience and perceptions. When I was in my mid twenties I started attending Celebrate Recovery and found freedom in the honesty that was encouraged there. It seemed to be the antidote to the lack of honesty I saw in the church and I jumped in with both feet. For a time, in my pursuit to live authentically I replaced authenticity with honesty. I cringe at the thought now, but during that time I threw out the church filter and communicated all the dysfunction and pain in my life regardless of relationship, context or venues. I would be extremely and sometimes brutally honest with others about my fears and shortcomings in hopes that they would see me as an authentic person. While my heart through that process was good I missed the mark. Instead of being the truest and most authentic version of myself I became the most honest version of myself (not bad, just different than authentic). It was only through the discipleship relationship with my dear friend and a lot of spiritual growth as well as the many friendships following that I began to understand true authenticity. Authentic people know who they are. They are familiar and comfortable with their truest self, the person they are at the the core of their being and they live according to their true character.
For myself as well as many others that I've talked to becoming authentic is a journey. For me it required painful circumstances, deep friendships, lots of time with Jesus and great people to support and encourage me on the journey including an amazing counselor. Before I could embrace my true personality, spirit and character I had to heal from the pain that those parts of me have experienced. Authenticity is something to be fought for with courage and resilience because we are made in God's image and to reflect his glory and we do that best when we our able to live authentically. The cost of authenticity is high; it will cost you the ways you cope with pain, it may cost you relationships, it will cost you time and energy. But, what you gain is well worth it. Authenticity will give you freedom to be yourself, affirmation of your deepest dreams and desires, deep spiritual connection with God, healing in your relationships and influence with the people around you. The journey is slow and continual but if you continue traveling down the authenticity road someday someone will come to you and say, "I've been watching you and I want to be like you!"
Who do you know that is truly authentic?
How do you know they are an authentic person?
How does their being truly authentic affect you?
What small change could you make in your life to become more authentic?
I'd love to talk with you as you begin or continue your journey to live authentically and with passion and purpose. Visit me at www.pathwaycoaching.net and contact me for a complimentary discovery session. I want to encourage and support you on your journey!