I have found that being authentic is important as we engage people in relationships. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we all have been introduced to the world of mask-wearing. I do my best to comply, but I certainly don’t like it. I mean, we don’t get to see someone’s whole face when connecting with them.
You know what? I have never been good at or comfortable with wearing a mask, or relating well to someone who seemed to be wearing one. I am not talking about literal, visible masks, but the ones we wear when we are uncomfortable with someone getting a glimpse of who we really are.
I have learned that there are several skills that you need to have the healthy relationships we all desire. Deep relationships are not automatic. They are built. They are intentional. They take a lot of time, effort, and energy. In all great relationships, there are four secrets you can find.
- Authenticity – the secret of being yourself.
- Vulnerability – the secret of sharing yourself.
- Credibility – the secret of being trustworthy. And…
- Compatibility – the secret of getting along in harmony.
In today’s blog, I want to take a look at the first one – authenticity. Because good relationships begin with you. Many of our relationship problems are not really relationship problems. They’re personal problems that have spilled over into relationships. Many of our relationship conflicts are really internal battles manifesting externally. And God says if you want to have great relationships, you’ve got to start with some changes in you first. So, we have to deal with the issue of authenticity.
I love what Romans 12:9 has to say about this topic: “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.” (The Message) The apostle Paul is talking about authenticity. Love from what you’re really like inside. Don’t fake it. Authenticity is simply when what you see is what you get. It’s when you don’t play a role, you don’t wear a mask. You’re not a phony. You’re not a hypocrite. You don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Your image and your character are the same.
This begs the question: Why do we wear masks in relationships? In a word, the answer is FEAR. Fear is behind most of your major relationship problems, and fear is as old as the human race. Way back in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve dwelt, we hear them making this statement to God after they disobeyed Him: “I was afraid… so I hid” Genesis 3:10 (NIV).
We tend to hide from each other. We hide our faults and our feelings and our failures and we wear masks. Fear is the destroyer of good relationships. If you’re ever going to build healthy relationships, you’re going to have to do business with three fundamental fears that are the enemies of great relationships…
1. THE FEAR OF EXPOSURE KEEPS US FROM BEING AUTHENTIC.
Many are afraid that people will find out that they’re not really who they say they are, that people will find them out, that they will uncover the real you. We don’t mind our strengths being exposed. We don’t mind our capabilities being exposed. We don’t mind all the good things about us being exposed. What we don’t want people to find out about us is our weaknesses. We don’t want our insecurities exposed. We don’t want our sense of inadequacy exposed. And all of us have a sense of inadequacy to some degree. It’s part of being a human. We don’t want people to know that we don’t have it all together.
But, the truth is, nobody has it all together. So why do we pretend? Why do we fake it? Why do we wear masks? The Bible tells us why it’s so easy to wear masks in a relationship… “No one really knows what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself” 1 Corinthians 2:11 (The Living Bible).
The reason it’s easy to wear a mask is because nobody really knows what you’re like on the inside. It’s easy to con people, it’s easy to fake, it’s easy to produce an image because nobody really knows. In fact, in the entire universe, there is only one person who fully understands you. And, by the way, it’s not you. It’s God. You don’t even understand yourself. There are motives you have that you haven’t figured out. You don’t know why you do what you do, but you do it. So even you don’t have yourself fully figured out. Only God knows exactly what you’re like.
Check this verse out: “Insincere talk that hides what you are really thinking is like a fine glaze on a cheap clay pot” Proverbs 26:23 (Good News Bible). A pretty glaze makes a pot look good. It may make it look authentic. It may make it look antique. It may make it look expensive. But it still could be a cheap pot. This verse is saying that what appears on the surface isn’t always reality.
We fear getting close to people because up close people can see our flaws and weaknesses. At a distance we look pretty good. Anytime you meet somebody who is distant, that doesn’t mean cool, calm, and collected. It means scared to death. The distant male who’s aloof and distant is not macho. He’s scared to death on the inside.
If you really want to build deep, meaningful, satisfying, intimate relationships you’re going to have to let people see your weaknesses. There is no other way. Because you’ve got to let them get close. We can impress people from a distance, but we can only influence them up close. And when we get up close, people see our warts, they see our mistakes, and we don’t like that.
The 1st KEY TO AUTHENTICITY: LIVE IN GOD’S LIGHT. The light of honesty, truth, and integrity, not the darkness of persona and image. The apostle John said “If we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other” I John 1:7 (New Century Version). Fellowship is the soul to soul interaction, heart to heart. It’s the deepest level, the intimate connection.
The Bible says: “When things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed” Ephesians 5:13 (GN). It says in another place “We refuse to wear masks and play games… Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see” 2 Corinthians 4:2 (The Message).
If you don’t live authentically, you are living a lie. You live phony. You try to be somebody you’re not. And that really hinders deep, meaningful relationships.
2. THE FEAR OF REJECTION KEEPS US FROM BEING AUTHENTIC.
Many years ago, John Towel wrote a well-known book called Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? The answer to that question is this… “I’m afraid to tell you what I’m really like because if you don’t like me, I’m all I’ve got and it’s tough luck. If I really lay it out and I don’t show you my image but I show you what I really am and you happen to not like it, or you disapprove of it, or you reject it, I’m up a creek without a paddle. Because I’m all I’ve got.”
So, we don’t want to let people get close to us. We don’t want to let people see what we’re really like because we fear disapproval. We fear rejection. Solomon understood that when he wrote: “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” Proverbs 29:25 (The Message). If that’s true – and it is true because it’s in God’s word – that fear of human opinion disables everybody reading this blog. We could apply for disability.
This is why I want to strongly suggest that you make Jesus Christ the most important person in your life because He knows you completely yet loves you unconditionally. He understands your value supremely. And the cross proves it. When you have His love in your life, you’re set free. You’re free to be authentic. This leads us to…
The 2nd KEY TO AUTHENTICITY: TRUST IN GOD’S LOVE. Don’t build your self-worth on another person who loves you conditionally. And many times, you are loved conditionally. Only unconditional love sets us free to be authentic. Once again the Word of God comes through for us: “Don’t be afraid, for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace; take heart and be strong!” Daniel 10:19 (New Living Translation)
The more you realize how much Jesus Christ loves you unconditionally, and the more you feel it in your soul, the freer you’re going to be to drop the mask, to quit pretending, to stop being a phony, to quit faking it and to live authentically. When you really get plugged in to God’s unconditional love for you it radically transforms your life. And you will become more authentic, and more capable of building deep relationships. And finally…
3. THE FEAR OF BEING HURT AGAIN KEEPS US FROM BEING AUTHENTIC.
The truth is you will be hurt in life many times. This is not heaven. This is Earth where people do get hurt. The more important issue is what do you do with that hurt? If you hold on to that hurt, it’s going to strangle the love out of your life. If you hold on to your hurt it will shrink your heart, harden it, and eventually turn it to stone. You’ve got to deal with the hurt so you can get on with your life.
There’s a sad process that goes like this:
- The more you have been hurt, the more you become afraid of being hurt again.
- And the more you’re afraid of being hurt again the more defensive and protective you become.
- And the more defensive and protective you become the more inauthentic you become.
You’re not going to let anybody get close to you. That is no way to live. In fact, that is not even living. It’s just existing. It’s not living the life you were meant to live. You were meant to live a life of love and that means you have to take risks because love always involves risk.
This brings us to the 3rd KEY TO AUTHENTICITY: LET GOD GIVE YOU A NEW HEART. God is in the heart transplant business. God says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone” Ezekiel. 36:26 (New International Version).
Have you been on the defense because you have been hurt? Jesus Christ can give you a fresh start. He can move you from phony inauthenticity back into an authentic relationship. But it starts with getting a new heart. Every time you get hurt your embrace gets a little bit smaller and you’re a little bit more cautious. The antidote is the most difficult and toughest thing in the world to do when you’ve been hurt: Open your arms wide open again. It’s called vulnerability.
The Bible says it beautifully: “Once…our lives were full of resentment… We hated others and they hated us. But when the time came for the kindness and love of God our Savior to appear, then he saved us – not because we were good enough to be saved but because of His kindness–by washing away our sins and giving us the new joy…” Titus 3:3-5 (The Living Bible)
God wants to give you a new joy, and the confidence to approach relationships with total authenticity. Why not surrender to him right now. He is waiting to hear from you.