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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Authenticity

In the course of producing our LoveLife podcast, Alvean Lyons and I have traversed a great many issues regarding relationships. LoveLife is not strictly limited to personal relationships; many of our episodes apply just as well to those of a professional nature. I mention this because one of the pervasive underlying issues that threads through almost every episode has to do with authenticity. Though we rarely address the subject directly, it is the limiting and motivating factor behind trust, transparency, empathy, and many human emotions, but it is a trait with which we often struggle.


Let me clarify what I mean by authenticity. For someone to be authentic, genuine if that is an easier concept to envision, constancy is the defining metric. “To thine own self be true”, signifies more than ego driven self-interest, but rather hewing to one’s values, and philosophy regardless of circumstances or external influences. It means accepting responsibility for oneself, and one’s actions, especially when in error, and questioning one’s motives at all times, not merely when being observed That is a strict and difficult standard, one which is easily breached when pressures from others or emotionally charged situations prevail.


It is also very hard to be true to an abstraction, to be authentic more than implies self-awareness; the kind of examined life few of us live on a daily basis. Humans are a striving race, that is one of our great attributes and as well one of our signal challenges. Often, and innocently we project our aspirations onto the canvas of our present selves, blurring the picture of who we are with the varnish of who we hope to be. Guilt and a confusing moral code—a child of shifting religious, parental and societal mores tends to make it hard to walk an absolute ethical line. Knowing where we stand not only requires that we have given prior and deep thought to our principles but are also aware of where our loved ones, family, co-workers, all those who surround us claim to stand. Accepting that we may not always align ourselves in ways that others will find compatible or even acceptable is the price of authenticity.


With all that is expected of us, and we expect of ourselves, it might seem impossible to sustain an authentic self but I would wager we all know at least one person who exemplifies this quality. When we come across such people --even if we find ourselves in different corners on key questions of faith or morality, we can respect their integrity—and I suspect that even in the face of sharp differences we can agree on fundamental questions. Accepting our own limitations, and errors of judgement or action tempers criticism and disagreement.


Replaying podcast episodes, I note that when Alvean and I offer counsel on relationship questions, although we come from very different backgrounds, separated by decades in age, and of course, gender, we invariably end up in the same place. That is, whether we find some spiritual lesson or life experience that illustrates our advice, they are seldom far apart. We take the responsibility of offering guidance so very seriously that we are compelled to speak from a place of more than sincerity. That is why so often we ground ourselves in both our own experience as well as our education—and why we will unfailingly admit to our own errors and blind spots. Are we authentic? I’d like to think so but leave that judgement to our listeners. What I can say is that we walk our talk, try to live as we counsel, and are accepting of our own and our listeners’ foibles.


Perhaps that is the note on which to end this post. As hard as we humans may find it to be authentic in every circumstance and all of the time, what matters most is staying that course under pressure. When we speak of defining moments, when what we say or do matters most, that is the time when authenticity should be measured. “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are”. (Carl Gustav Jung)

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