If you want authenticity…you have to go first. That’s not easy. When I am meeting someone, I like to ask questions of them because when people talk about themselves they walk away having a more meaningful experience with you. That’s easy part and the first part. Once you realize you have a connection, it’s important to make that connection authentic and that happens when you choose to “give them the gift of going second” as you are the first to “open up.” So as a creator of connection, builder of community, a leader of leaders, you have to take that initiative.
Community without that natural chemistry is forced, mildly boring and lacks energy. So as the one “reading this post” you now have the responsibility to cultivate authenticity with your relationships. You are charged with helping others tear down their walls, to lower the drawbridge and to let others in. You can be a castle that’s closed or you can be a greenhouse that grows. Authenticity grows you to becoming a better Christian…a better human being.
So the question to ask your community is this: Is this a safe place for me tobe myself? Because the most authentic you is the you others are longing for and what God is waiting for…. Authenticity dismantles who others want you to be and enhances who you're supposed to be. So be vulnerable. Vulnerability says I accept you before you accept me. Authenticity starts when you become vulnerable in your relationships. When you choose vulnerability you choose community.
So stop self-protecting.
Allowing ourselves to truly experience our emotions is a beautiful thing and is the first step toward becoming a well-rounded and emotionally balanced person. It’s hard for people to see what a complete mess underneath while at the same time showing my cool exterior. But as I got older, I realized that being transparent with the people I care about is a true joy that many miss out. Instead of the freedom to be ourselves, we instead try to re-adjust ourselves according to who we think people want us to be.
Here’s why this is wrong: Everyone is deserving of unconditional love. This is the love of God so we need this, it’s the kind of love that we were made to contain. When we hide the things about ourselves we deem “undesirable,” we’re building shaky relationships that eventually collapse because they are build on a façade and not a foundation.
That’s why authenticity is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. Someone who is not authentic can still be a leader and connect but will not add value to our community. A person who connects and cares authentically adds value to their community by making a positive contribution. The biggest blockage to this authentic community is self-protection.
How do we cultivate authenticity in our communities?
Self-Protection is rooted in fear and results in hiding vs authenticity is rooted in vulnerability and results in originality
Not everyone will like you. This was hard for me to realize because I thought I was a pretty likable dude. But that’s part of life I guess. But those who do like you will like you best when you are truly yourself. Sometimes we don’t’ want o to be caught being yourselves” because we fear others may not like what they see. So we chose to hide it from others until it’s “safe to reveal” the our true selves. That’s why sincerity and originality seam to go together. I live in MN and there’s nothing like walking on a freshly snowed sidewalk…not just hearing the crunch against the silent snowfall but walking and making prints of my own. Herman Melville says it this way,
“It’s better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation. –Herman Melville
Originality isn’t an option but an obligation. David couldn’t wear Saul’s armor so why are you modeling someone else’s? David learned that lesson. You be you and you do you. Because your community needs it.
Self protection controls situations vs authenticity celebrates people
Fear is controlling. And fear can permeate a situation quickly. But it can be conquered by authenticity. When you are authentic, you are showing others who you are and that’s a good thing. When you become yourself in front of others you celebrate yourself for the benefit of others. Authenticity dismantles who others want you to be and enhances who you're supposed to be. And that takes courage. Courage is comes from the latin word Kerr which is where we get the word “heart.” Fear is overcome when the heart of the person is revealed ad to others. You can’t make everyone happy…that’s never been your job. But you can make people better. Imitating others makes you a copy of others around you but the real you makes others around you complete. Seth Godin says it like this,
“Because, while we're each unique, we have far more in common than we're comfortable admitting. Amplifying our differences may make us feel special, but it's not particularly useful when it comes to getting better. ... Being unique is a great way to hide from the change we need when someone offers us a better future. Learning from the patterns and the people who have come before, though, is the only way any of us advance. “-Seth Godin
True community requires authenticity. And you can’t express authenticity without others. So ask yourself…how can you leverage your nique qualities to add value to others in your community?
Self-Protection wastes emotional energy vs authenticity creates relational connectivity
Your iphone has only so much memory and your emotional capacity has only so much energy. When you pretend to be someone who “has it all together” or try to be “the charismatic one or popular one”, it drains you and and isn’t sustainable. Give yourself permission to be yourself and you will enjoy being yourself.