If you have read things from me for a bit, you know that I talk a lot about authenticity. We talked in the fall about how to be honest with God with our feelings, and I gave a bit of an overview of living authentically with God, self, and others before that.
I believe that living without masks, living authentically, leads to connection. Connection brings truth. Truth brings growth and healing. We hide from God. We hide from others, and we hide from ourselves. Presenting a pretty picture of who we think we are supposed to be, what we think we are supposed to do or feel or think. We show the world what we think they want to see. And we lose ourselves along the way. We forget who we are.
So who are we? Who are you? Who is the real you? Do you know? If not, how can you find out who you are? Do you show the real you to others? Are you honest with yourself, with God, with people?
How can we live authentically? How can we have genuine, meaningful, healthy relationships?
A friend of mine recently was talking with me about the movie Little Women, which was perfection, by the way. I am only a little dramatic sometimes, OK maybe a lot. But I am not being dramatic. It really was perfection. No spoilers here. No worries. The gist of the new movie follows the original story very closely. My friend Courtney was saying how women for so long were silenced, not allowed to share opinions or feelings about important things. They were in the background with a voice that did not matter. Little Women is a beautiful picture of women learning to use their voices when it mattered. It was and is incredibly empowering and moving.
That culture of silenced women trickled down. And we are living in the aftermath. We are living in an era of feminism when women have been (a bit obnoxiously so at times, if I may say) fed up with "the man" silencing them. And they will be heard.
I wonder if women today struggle to know and share their feelings and thoughts, though, because of this cultural silencing of women that lasted for generations.
(And I wonder if men struggle to know and share because that is seen as weakness, and they are supposed to be strong.)
But we also live in a time when people are sick of pretenses. They want people be their authentic, genuine selves because we just don't have time to invest in fake relationships with fake people. Sometimes people display what they think to be their genuine selves, but it is not the truest form of self. This is a very complicated, existential discussion. We won't do a deep dive into philosophy right now, but we will talk about this.
How can we know who we really are? How can we show that to the world in a genuine way, even if that is hard and requires us to share hard truths?
And what does that have to with God, if not everything?
In the counseling room, I walk with people in this in many different ways. I want to help people learn what they feel, how they think, what their strengths and weaknesses are, their dreams. I want to help them know their truest identity, and I want to help them live that out. Live out who they were made to be. I want them to do this because their relationships will become more healthy, more whole.
In that process of working with people in these ways, I have implemented five main steps. I'll call them the Five Steps to Cultivating Healthy Relationships with self, God, and your people. These steps are fluid and interchangeable. They are not linear and rigid. I came up with these steps through the course of studying authentic moments in scripture that led to beautiful connections and sweet experiences of growth and healing and through helping people like you in the counseling room.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will walk through each step with you.
Let me share them briefly.
In order to be the most authentic you and to have healthy relationships with yourself, God, and others, you need to implement these five practices:
1. Awareness: An awareness of your body, mind, and soul. Awareness of your thoughts, feelings, struggles. Awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. Awareness of your personality, temptations, past history, future dreams. Awareness of your stage in life, your experiences. This requires listening and learning. It could also be awareness of others, of God. Example (I will go with personality here to keep it simple): I am aware that I am an Enneagram 4 after taking tests and reading on it and hearing from other 4s.
2. Acceptance: An acceptance of those pieces of you without shaming yourself. Example: awareness with judgment would look like this-- "Kerrah, no one likes Enneagram 4s. They all think you are too sensitive and too emotional, and they don't really enjoy being around you." Awareness without shame and judgment looks like this: There may be some weak points I need to work on as a 4, but my strengths bring a lot of depth to the world. It may not be the right fit for some, but those are not my people.
3. Acknowledgment: An acknowledgement (verbal or nonverbal) of some or all of those pieces to yourself, God, and others (depending on depth of the piece, not all others are safe others). Example: "Hey world, I am a four!"
4. Admittance: An admittance of truth that may contradict something of which you may have become aware. This requires listening for truth. Example: I am a four, but that is not the truest thing about me. I am first made by God, and He is the one who designed me. Who does He say that I am? Does that line up with what I think about myself?
5. Admiration: An admiration of the truth that you have learned, an admiration (love) of self, or God, or others. Example: (a prayer) "God, I know you created me and see me. You know me by name, and I am so grateful for that. Thank you for helping me see my personality a bit closer, for showing me my strengths and weaknesses. I know that I am yours, and no matter what, I am loved by you."
Each blog in this series will hit one of these five in more detail. Again, they do not follow a linear pattern. I could become aware of something in a prayer of thanks to God. I could be acknowledging my thoughts about something to a friend and then become aware of my feelings, too. But these steps, practiced regularly (and in turn, becoming very natural to you), will help you discover you, be you, and carry that over to your relationships.
Disclaimer: I am a Christian first. Above all. And I will found all I share here in these steps with scripture. Because I believe scripture (the Christian Bible) is truth. And how will you be able to know the truth about yourself without knowing the truth of scripture, the written word of the One who created you? So there may be some thoughts and feelings that you realize that you are having along this journey. That's good. That's awareness. But if those thoughts or feelings somehow tell you something that is not in line with scripture, I pray that through admittance, you would be able to recognize that and learn what is truth. The truth that sets you free. Because if not, you will only live out an inauthentic version of you, and your relationships with suffer.
I am tired of the masks.
I want to know myself.
I want to know you.
I want to live out who I am,
Who you made me to be.
I want to share the truth of who I am with the world.
Will you help me become aware?
And not shame myself.
Will you help me acknowledge what needs to be acknowledged?
Will you help me listen for truth and admit when it does not line up with
My thoughts and feelings and experiences?
Will you help me see you, praise you, love you?
Will you help me love others and love myself?
In Jesus' Name,