Sunday, March 25

reflections on authenticity

This afternoon, a friend of mine invited me out for lunch and we went up to a town in the mountains for a marvelous day with great food and good friendship.  During our meal on the patio, I watched people as they walked by and two groups stick in my mind. 

The first were a pair of men in their late 30's-early 40's walking generally together.  Call it insight, gay-dar or what-have-you, but it was apparent to me (and my straight friend) that they were a gay couple, yet any sign of PSA was painfully absent. It was if an invisible barrier prevented them from being less than 'X' inches from each other, acknowledging each other or giving off any sign that they were who and what they are. 

The other group was a trio of teen-aged boys, cavorting about, acting up and generally being pretty ridiculous - in short, being teenagers having fun.  At least one of them was obvious enough that only a blind man would mistake him as straight, yet neither they nor anyone else seemed to care.  What rang through their actions was an immediacy and honesty of expression that bespoke of the authenticity of being.  This made me smile and, in truth, feel a tinge of jealousy.  Having grown up in an earlier time, I have felt all too often like the earlier couple - incapable of expressing who I am and what I feel for fear of social retribution of one type or another.  To see those kids being themselves fills me with joy and sadness - joy for them and sadness for myself and so many others who have never felt the ability to be themselves.

This brings me to church and other social organizations like it.Where is the line between being authentic and risking causing offense?  Is there fault to be laid in the social offense and if so, is it upon the offender or the one who takes offense?  I am not talking about being a social provocateur but rather being true to who you are. 

For myself, I know that some in my parish would be probably less than accepting if I laid out all of the particulars of who I am and what I believe.  As anyone who is reasonable, airing all of your personal laundry is a poor idea.  That said, to be able to connect with them, serve them and engage them where they are at, I feel a certain necessity to be as authentic as I can be.  Thus, there is a certain tension.  Hrm. 


  1. Tim, I've found authenticity is really about personal integration. When I'm integrated and acting from that integration it is not beholden on me to declare anything much about me in order to be authentic in what I say. It's when you hide things from yourself and impede your own integration that you become inauthentic, and everyone's bull shit meter pegs. It's tripping others bs meter I care about, not their gaydar.

  2. Hrm...I am going to have to ask you to more fully explain what you mean by personal integration. I am unfamiliar with the terminology (and you appear to be using it as jargon) and my google-fu is weak and soft this Monday AM. If it would be more useful or conducive, my email is in the profile section.

    As always, I deeply appreciate your insights.

    1. The easiest way to explain personal integration is probably the idea of walking your talk. But it also means being as consciously aware as possible of your motivations for actions/emotions towards yourself and others. Classic ego defense mechanisms like denial, rationalization, or projection are not operative. Or, as some spiritual teachers like to say, you have done your life recapitulation and dealt with your shadow self.

  3. As an aside, I should mention that it is not only in matters of orientation which this conflict of authenticity v. social acceptance comes into play.

    More often, it is hiding my religious beliefs because of my 'smart atheist' friends or my 'pious true-believer' coworkers. It extends to not correcting folk when they parrot the distortions of fact which are rampant in the media and refraining from discussions of honest political issues.