Living Authentically and The Power of Choice
By Charlene Ogu
If we think of the most authentic being, it can only be God. The fabric/essence of authenticity is therefore love.
Authenticity is defined as the quality of being authentic. That which is authentic is true. It's essence speaks to the truth of itself.
Therefore anything that aligns with truth is authentic. So now the question arises, how can we be authentic?
It starts with a 'what is' question. A question that looks first at the beginning point. 'What is it and what is it doing here?' The questions we ask when we make an initial discovery. A question that can be translated into 'who am I and what am I doing here?' when looking at ourselves. The answer to this question can be found in God who created us in love, to love and to be loved.
Living authentically is therefore living in love.
The closer we draw to this truth through prayer and listening the simpler it becomes to be authentic.
It's a question of identity. If I can identify what something is for, why it's creator made it then I can easily begin to use it for it's intended purpose.
And so it is with us.
The problem is however, it's never that simple.
In a world overcome with fear, with minds wired to survive without an eternal perspective, it's no wonder it can be so difficult to choose love when you are angry, disappointed, jealous or judgmental.
So here are some steps derived from writings of Gary Zukav.
Allow your self to feel what you feel.
That doesn't mean that you have to act on it or become attached to it just means you're ready to be present to whatever it is.
Distinguish whether it's coming from a place of fear or love.
Sometimes this can be really painful and we try to escape from it by repressing or denying that emotion.
We've all been there, when was the last time you said 'I'm fine, really!' when you really weren't.
The violence in repressing emotions is that they always find a way to express themselves in more aggressive and unhealthy ways.
Those around us in our families, communities and sometimes even in our Churches may not be so comfortable with the painful reality of 'negative' emotions which is why too many of us feel the need to disregard them.
Therein lies a challenge for us to be ok with not being ok!
And God presents us with glorious moments where we are loved in our anger or judgement or whatever is, which in itself is liberating.
Acknowledging your emotions also means acknowledging the good ones. Acknowledge love and joy and peace when you feel it. Cultivate it and be grateful for it.
1. Become emotionally aware.
Become curious about the different emotions you feel.
Try and increase your vocabulary for emotions.
Usually we think we're either happy, sad or tired because our culture hasn't taught us to give words to the different emotions we feel.
A good way to become more aware is to write them down, journaling and meditation is great for this.
And the most courageous bit - Don't negate whatever you are feeling no matter how small or insignificant you think the trigger for it was.
“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”
― Brené Brown
And this moves us to step 2... Acknowledgment.
When we become aware, we can then choose how to act hereafter to these emotions.
Acknowledgement gives us the power to make a more conscious decision as opposed to an unconscious one.
This is the point were we choose to react or to respond, to choose from a place of fear or love.
Fear keeps you in an illusion whereas love keeps you in the present moment and in truth.
'Inject consciousnesses into the space between the impulse and the action' -Gary Zukav
At this point after familiarising ourselves with our internal workings we can choose to respond which is not a choice to fix or control whatever activated the emotions but rather to make a decision that best reflects our nature.
When we find ourselves in these mini climates of pain that can be really difficult, we call on God, we call on his grace and strength, we cry out for the Holy Spirit.
When we feel emotions of love and belonging, to choose gratitude over complacency. To make an act of thanksgiving.
In Matthew 5:38 Jesus says to his disciples
'You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well'
Here we see Jesus teaching us offer no resistance, which is a call to respond not to react. The response he is calling us to is not passivity but rather to a conscious and powerful awareness of who we are, which can only take place when we have built a habit of reflecting on our behaviour and the way we react and respond. This allows us to become compassionate with ourselves, which is the only way we can be compassionate with others. Initially following these steps won't follow the 1,2, 3 pattern. Life is never that neat, but authenticity is a practice. Step no. 4
In her book Gifts of imperfections, Brene Brown says:
"In my research on authenticity and shame, I found that speaking out is a major shame trigger for women. Here’s how the research participants described the struggle to be authentic:
Don’t make people feel uncomfortable but be honest.
Don’t upset anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings but say what’s on your mind.
Sound informed and educated but not like a know-it-all.
Don’t say anything unpopular or controversial but have the courage to disagree with the crowd.
Research on the attributes that we associate with “being feminine” tells us that some of the most important qualities for women are thin, nice, and modest. That means if women want to play it totally safe, we have to be willing to stay as small, quiet, and attractive as possible."
Living authentically will be a challenge because it means going against the grain at times especially in an inauthentic culture. Prayer is therefore essential, spending time with the most authentic person and drawing on his grace and strength is necessary.
Surround yourself with authentic people, but don't be afraid to go it alone.
Leave a comment and share your experiences on authentic living!