Authenticity is king in today’s culture. This is evident in politics as people gravitate towards Donald Trump because “he says it like it is.” Part of the attraction is that we wish we could be so forthright. After several NFL football games on Sunday, players took to Twitter and Instagram to share their anger over the referring during the game. It was no holds barred commentary on the refs without any restraint. I oftentimes see people spouting on Facebook deeply personal emotions or opinions without any regard for someone reading it. It puts the reader in a bind as it is hard to challenge someone who is being authentic. You are left with the typical response – “I know how you feel” or simply ignoring it as you feel it is best to keep your opinions to yourself.
Yet, I find this response to be somewhat conflicting. The person is being authentic to you but you can only be authentic in return if you agree with them. “I know how you feel” is an appropriate response. “You should be angry” is permissible too. But, it is not really ok to say “Are you seeing this correctly?” And it is definitely not ok to say “You are reacting way too strongly to this situation.” That could be the deathblow to the relationship. I find this to be the sad reality of many relationships today. It is ok to be authentic when you are venting but it is not ok to be authentic when you are challenging someone.
But, if relationships are genuine, they should be able to withstand two-way authenticity. I should be able to graciously ask my friend whether their response is a reaction to some other issue in their life. I should be able to post on their wall “You should pray about whether your assessment of the situation is correct.” And, in some cases, I should have the courage to say “That decision is really not ok” or “You need to cool off.” I think we would all agree that a true relationship should be able to withstand such honesty. Yet, I wonder how many of our friendships characterize it.
As I think about my relationships, I find myself asking several questions:
- Are my friendships (or my ego) strong enough to withstand a challenge?
- Am I more interested in keeping peace in the relationships than seeing the person grow?
- Is personal growth more important than spouting an opinion?
- Am I willing to take the risk and get real with someone (and let them get real with me)?
These are the relationships that Christ modeled to us. He spoke to us with “truth and grace” (John 1:14). Jesus loved his friendships but he was not afraid to be honest in them. Are we modeling such friendships? Are we willing to risk some offense to speak truth into their life? Are we ok sacrificing time in order to walk through how uncomfortable such a challenge involves? Are we humble enough to genuinely listen when someone raises a concern realizing that person truly loves us? Are we willing to be Christ to someone as well as allow them to be Christ to us?