Wednesday, August 28, 2019

AUTHENTIC, AUSCHMENTIC – When Being Yourself Is Just an Excuse for Being A Jerk

(As a Nature-and-wonder writer, I find most of my inspiration in the natural world. But I must continually remind myself that I am, that all of us homo sapiens are, also part of that world of wonder. We are animals…and at times we act like it. Often in ways that are most admirable, but also at times when we should know better.
The inspiration for this post is the heartache someone I know is experiencing over her estrangement from a very dear friend—one who’s suddenly decided that being kind and considerate is not who she is.)

“Authentic” has taken on a new definition. It used to mean real, without pretense, the genuine article. It had nothing to do with permission or entitlement, aspects today’s meaning seems to have acquired in spades.

Who knows, maybe it’s like the word “truth” in this, the Trump era; it means whatever you want it to mean. Or maybe it’s just some lazy psychiatrists’ attempts to make their patients feel better, even though not a single person the patient knows will actually be the better for it—nor will the patient for that matter.

No, authentic does not mean you can accept a friend’s invitation and then show up with a few of your own friends. It doesn’t allow you to make plans with someone and then just go ahead and do it on your own without telling them. It doesn’t forgive you for failing to communicate.

Do you think you can just do anything you want to, or say anything you damn well please, and then expect everyone else to just suck it up and say “Well, I guess that’s just so-and-so being authentic; that’s just who she is.”?

I don't think so. That’s not the way a thoughtful society works. It’s not the way true friendships work. Nor is it a behavior most of the world’s faith traditions would condone. Not when your “authenticity” comes at the expense of another’s—or a family’s, or a community’s.

       By acting in ways that put others out, by
       saying things that hurt, do you think that’s
       who you really are?

I guess I should be more understanding, since being “authentic” takes on some of the characteristics of an addiction. There’s this little voice somewhere inside that tells you No, you shouldn’t say or do that! But then, denying those better instincts, you do it anyway. That's just the real you, you  rationalize.

I have no problem with folks trying their best to be true to their principles, but c'mon, don’t conflate that with permission to act out your character flaws.

Rarely, a brave friend or loved one will give you some honest feedback. But you’ve become very good at making sure such honesty comes at a price. Sadly, they usually find it’s not worth the effort. They just get used to it and absorb the impact of having to accommodate you.

Or you simply find someone new, be it friend, or counselor, or clergy person, who won’t mind enabling your weakness. Meanwhile, you just keep putting your “authenticity” — translation: needs—first, while imposing on, even hurting, people who should be able to expect more of you.

Do you really think that kind of denial has anything at all
to do with authenticity?

By acting in ways that put others out, by saying things that hurt, do you think
that’s who you really are? Or are you just demanding the right to be mean, angry
or thoughtless?

You really want to be authentic? Open your eyes. Try being more self-aware. Think. Find a way to move beyond whatever pains, problems and privileges in your life you've been nurturing instead of dealing with and moving past. Start acting like a friend, not to mention a member of a kind, cooperative society.


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