Authenticity as a character trait, not an overused word

(Photo: Unsplash/Rachael Crowe)

I used to wonder, as a teen, why on earth anyone would want to teach high school. While in it, I was a master at blending: smart, but not noticeable, friendly, but not popular, but definitely not unpopular. I never raised my hand in class. I never took the classes my dad taught. I was always kind to teachers but never enough to form relationship. By the end of my senior year, I was voted shyest girl, and it was proof of my wallflower nature.

Underneath, I was actually really smart, loved business, and was super creative. My best friend was probably my oldest sister who lived on the other side of the country and visited twice a year. I missed a lot of opportunities to grow, connect, and develop relationships back then because I was so afraid of what people thought.

Now as a high school teacher, I notice when students don't have food for lunch, want to eat with teachers, and find the places people hide thinking no one will find them. Popular or not, adolescence is terrifying. There is something that happens in the brain of a teenager, with all those chemicals going off that shifts a person's perspective to who they are in light of a crowd. Comparison, the in-authentic, compromise, and lies are the trades made for favor and are usually fear inspired.

I concluded that the bravest human beings are the teenage girls, and boys, who choose to be themselves even against popular opinion. I honestly haven't met many, and I wish I would have been one myself.

What being authentic looks like

Being authentic is vulnerable, ugly, foolish, dangerous, and sometimes the hardest thing to do as human beings. Those who do it never taste compromise.

The Bible tells us that God has numbered every hair on our heads and that He has plans for us. Knowing the nature of God, he never made two identical human beings and each of us has a unique book with the plans God has written for our lives.

Jesus never pretended to be someone else. His identity was son and he wore it securely. If Jesus had been insecure, his behavior would have been much different. For example, when Mary and Joseph had to go back for him after their trip to the temple, had he been insecure, Jesus would have felt guilty, apologized, and remained with his parents coming and going when it came to worshipping the Father. That he stood his ground at 12 years old and asked them why they didn't assume he would be with his Father shows his self-assured nature. Any other kid going to temple would be ready to leave in boredom and definitely wouldn't have called God Father.

What was in those encounters that a 12-year-old wanted to remain?

I've been challenged when it comes to the humanity of Jesus.

I bring this up to emphasize the point that authenticity is not for the perfect or for God and his Son. It's a choice and it means putting down our right to do or be only what we shine at and are good at. We all assume that Jesus from birth to death knew he was God's Son and his job was to show the world the Father and to die for our sins. When we take the humanity of Jesus away we get a perfection we can never live up to.

Jesus was authentic

If I had to ask Jesus about why He wasn't insecure, I imagine he'd say something like this:

"I never needed to make a name for myself or to make a place for myself in the world because I knew the Father already made it for me. When I was a kid I was really good at studying scripture, and asking good questions. I stumped a lot of leaders and it bothered me that they couldn't answer. So, I sought the Father, much like a child asks a parent about things that trouble them. I trusted my Father when it came to my place, knowing he would open doors and close them accordingly. Authenticity came because I knew his love.

Insecurity comes with fatherlessness and broken relationships: trust gets broken and people take control. The natural giving and receiving flow to love and relationships becomes performance based and mechanical. Many choose to guard their hearts and make vows to never feel the letdown of disappointment and rejection again. I was authentic, totally at peace with and aware of my Father's love for me. There was never a disappointment or broken moment of connection, not even at the cross."

In the midst of a high school where opportunities come and go every day to reward the authentic and help raise young men and women to be kind, honorable, and braver than I was, Jesus words remind me even more to pray. I will pray for the kids who compromise, like I did, that their hearts would mend and that the courage to connect authentically would rise up out of the ashes of their own vows, breaks, and disappointments.

Courtesy of Press Service International