I know what it is to ignore the authentic self. To put on a mask for the benefit for everyone else, but ultimately be dying and suffering inside.
I remember the feeling I had that day. We were fighting, again. The season of struggle had been so hard on us, and I really was not sure if we would make it. I was scared to speak. There was such fear that I would somehow hurt and destroy my seemingly fragile husband.
His pain was real, and I valued that. I knew how hard everything felt for him. So, I stuffed.
I stuffed my own feelings and fears and emotions and pain way down deep. I could be strong…for him. I could do it all…
Except I couldn’t.
A funny thing happened, actually. I was slowly losing my ability to sing and speak. Somewhere in the middle of my throat there was this lump that had formed, and it choked the words right out of me, over and over again.
On this night, though, I felt that lump. It rose up strong and great. I had so much to say, but would not let the words escape.
Don’t rock the boat.
But, we were already sinking, and fast.
I remember standing there, choking on this lump, and I heard the Lord whisper softly to me:
Julie, I didn’t make you to be silent, but to speak. Your power lies in using your voice in Truth AND Love, because that’s MY power and MY strength that I built into you. Use it. Stop being afraid.
That was when everything began to change.
That was the day I began to embrace being authentic.
How to Live an Authentic Life and Experience Breakthrough
I can barely write just the overview of that time without breaking into tears, but anyone who has struggled with ignoring self in the hopes of uplifting others will understand the struggle and the despair that eventually follows.
Our Abba taught me an amazing lesson that day, which I have not soon forgotten.
1. He did not make His children to stay silent in hopes to keep peace.
2. He does not at all have a problem with confronting difficult situations and addressing problems because His Way is a way of Truth in Love.
But, first thing’s first, I had to learn how to accept my own inner struggles, embrace them for what they were, and continue to heal all that was going on inside of me so that I could see clearly to lovingly speak to those around me, especially my husband.
Our Abba does not shy away from confrontation, but rather, encourages His people to “speak the Truth IN LOVE.”Our Abba does not shy away from confrontation, but rather, encourages His people to “speak the Truth IN LOVE.” Click To Tweet
This list is surely not exhaustive. I wish it were, but it just really cannot be.
Think of this like looking at a map with a Key in the bottom righthand corner. These elements are the Key. They are the integral parts that facilitate a life lived out for the glory of our Abba. Without these elements, critical pieces of Truth are missing and legalism, or worse, can creep in.
Embrace Your Unique Design
For whatever reason, there is a pervasive lie that human beings should line up in some kind of uniform, pre-determined by some random person, standardized criteria, by which all kinds of comparisons and judgments can thrive and exist.
The sad thing is that none of these criteria actually push the Way of our Abba as outlined in His Word and Laws, but rather are those which abide by the things that individuals find important; grades, career or work choices, choice for spouse, number of children, size of house, amount of income, etc, etc.
But, here’s the thing. You were made with a unique set of gifts and talents, strengths and preferences, and each of these were built into you for a unique purpose and use in this world. Even if your strengths have been labeled as sinful (such as a strong-willed, determined person who has been labeled as “rebellious”), the Lord has a purpose for why He gave you the gifts He did (check out my post on strengths!).
Seek Him to gain clarity on your gifts, strengths, talents, and desires. Ask Him to help you accept your authentic self and to weed out anything that is getting in the way. Pray for His guidance as you begin to embrace and walk in the steps He laid out for you.
Honor Your Inner Self, too
Emotions have gotten a bad rap. They have become something of weakness, in the worst sense.
But, time after time we can see in scripture that our Abba loves to hear the True hearts of His children, no matter how ugly or dark they can seem. Repeatedly in Psalms, we hear the cries of David when he was experiencing the worst and most emotionally difficult situations. He cried out for God to avenge him; to protect him. “WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?!” and yet, God never rebukes him for his emotions.
If God is not afraid of us being authentic and feeling deep feelings, why are we so afraid of them?
When we allow ourselves to really FEEL the pain of a struggle, instead of whitewash it with a list of words and phrases to attempt to “fix it,” we free ourselves from the bondage of the pain and open the door for our Abba to come alongside of us with comfort and love.
Feel the feelings, but do not let them control you. Allow them to come. Acknowledge their existence. Listen to what they are telling you. Respond to them intentionally, and take strides to address what can be addressed.
Feeling pain and hurt does not at all mean acting out in pain and hurt. This is the difference between immaturity and maturity. Maturity brings with it self-control, and the permission to cry and hurt, and then take action in Love.
Embrace the authentic. Honor your feelings and accept them. Then, ask the Lord for guidance in navigating all they have to say.
In the beginning of this post, I shared a story of a period of time in my marriage when I felt so heavy with pain, but could not figure out how to step through the wall I had built around love.
In my mind, loving someone was to keep them from pain; to avoid “causing” discomfort and grief. I had a lot to learn.
The Truth is that Love, REAL love, is both comforting AND bold, confronting AND compassionate, empathetic AND controlled, direct AND kind, truthful AND gentle.
Godly Love is found in the narrow space between extremes. It is both True AND Loving.
Ask the Lord to help you to navigate authentic love: the middle ground where His love lives. Seek Him to help you to hold your ground while extending empathy and compassion to the difficulties that others are facing. He will help you to extend grace to others and to serve them without taking on their responsibilities as your own.
Pray for wisdom and guidance in this. We do not have many examples in our day, but the Lord stills provides to those who ask of Him.
Forgive and Be Free
There will be hurtful events in this life. We all have our things. We all have our pains. But, I found this little nugget of Truth buried in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, and it was the missing part that spoke to me the loudest.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” ~ 1 Cor. 13: 4-5 (emph. mine)
Love is not easily angered, but the flip side of that guidance is the absent of any encouragement to “not offend (or anger) others.” God, in His complete wisdom, knows that we humans have unique, authentic viewpoints. When we engage in life with others, it is inevitable that we will end up rubbing each other the wrong way at some point or another.
With differences comes the relative ease for offense and anger, so the encouragement is to practice self-control within ourselves and be mindful of how we respond to potentially insulting or offending things.
Forgiveness Releases OUR Hearts from Bondage
It is to our benefit when we can overlook an offense, if it is something that is a personality clash or some other benign infraction (not gross abuses). It is a protection to our own being and soul to forgive others for their actions, whether intentionally harmful or not.
When we choose to forgive, we are choosing to release bondage from our grips and hand the need for appropriate correction to lay in the hands of God, rather than ourselves.
Forgiveness does not mean that we do not hold boundaries or set limits that may affect a relationship, but rather it frees us from the emotional bondage of hatred and judgment. Forgiveness frees US from our own internal cage.
Ask the Lord to help reveal any areas that need forgiveness, whether from your past or present. Pray for His guidance to help you release the anger and pain that is held up within you and to extend forgiveness towards that other person, while laying the ultimate consequences that are appropriate for the offense into the hands of our Abba, trusting Him to make right whatever wrong was done.
Ask Him to help cleanse your heart and mind from any residual hurt and pain, and then continue to take action to extend forgiveness and love, even if with limits.
Get Out and Have Some Fun
We’ve already talked about the uniqueness of individuals, so something even as simple as “fun” is a uniquely expressed idea. What kinds of things do you enjoy? What brings a smile to your face and delight to your heart?
Being authentic means accepting and honoring what we truly want and do not want, and allowing for these perspectives without judgment.
Think of some times that you have found yourself laughing or feeling emotionally satisfied. What were you doing during those times? Take the time to intentionally seek out opportunities to build in more fun and enjoyment into your days, even if you have to literally schedule it in.
Laughter is wonderful medicine for the soul, and a joyful time helps to lift the heart and mind. There is nothing childish about wanting to enjoy life, so take some time to add this essential life balancer into your days.
Surround Yourself with Healthy, Whole People
Along with boundaries comes the need to make difficult choices, and when it comes to choosing with whom we spend our time, there is nothing more difficult.
Friends and family provide our greatest opportunity to be encouraged, supported, and uplifted during our times of need. Sadly, though, not always are these people emotionally healthy and stable.
It is okay to set boundaries and hold lines to protect yourself and those you love from people who do you harm, but always remember that judging others for where they are struggling or broken does no one any good.
Yes, set boundaries. Yes, hold firm. But, yes, pray for their healing and emotional wholeness to emerge. It benefits everyone when we all win.
Give to and Serve Others with Generosity and Open Hands
Have you ever been the recipient of obligatory kindness? When someone does something that is understood to be kind, but they do it in a way that feels like you’re being held hostage? This kind of “giving” is the a martyrdom syndrome, and not at all the kind of open generosity that our Abba loves to see.
Authentic generosity is done with no strings attached. It is an opportunity to love on and support another without any expectations in return. This is best done with those whom we love, who provide us with the opportunity to develop a relationship of mutual love, respect, support, and encouragement. The same kind of generosity, though, can also be given freely to even total strangers.
When we are on the receiving end of such generosity, we are responsible for our inner gratitude and not stepping into “expectation” mode, where we aren’t even thankful for the kindness offered from another because they “should” have done it anyway. This kind of thinking is faulty and self-centric, rather than healthy and selfless. It strips the virtue from the gift and turns it into a twisted master/slave exchange.
One thing that strikes me with this is that I have known so many people to be completely unaccustomed to receiving loving support and generosity. I have repeatedly had great friends apologize for being a “burden” when offered an open-handed, loving gesture of generous giving. It breaks my heart.
Let’s stop the cycle of thinking that needing help or being helped is somehow something to look down upon. Our Abba made us a united Body so that we could lean on each other and find support in Him.
Ask the Lord to help you find areas where you can serve and give generously to others. Ask Him to provide a path to this generosity and the means to do what is on your heart. And then, obey. You will not regret it.
Be Courageously Vulnerable
As I mentioned before, emotions have gotten a bad rap in recent years. It seems like it is much more preferred to simply stuff emotions and hide them, rather than address them openly with self-control. The thing is, though, when we stuff our emotions, they tend to build up as an emotional volcano waiting to bubble to the surface with explosive force.
The best way to curtail explosive emotions is to step into the discomfort of pain, hurt, and sadness and allow for these feelings to be felt and expressed.
This means, being vulnerable…and it’s the most authentic thing a person can do.
Being vulnerable is an absolutely amazing show of strength and courage! Sadly, not everyone understands this, so disrespectful and critical remarks likely permeate your mind and thoughts at the sheer idea of crying or allowing yourself to feel something deeply.
When Our Trust is in our Abba, Our Lives can be Open to Others
The truth is, though, that there is amazing strength in being vulnerable, because it opens the door to the heart and allows another person to have access to our inner world. It seems “safer” to simply keep that door shut and locked closed in order to protect ourselves from hurt and pain, but when we lock our emotions in and others out, we also close out any opportunity to develop close relationships with those who love us.
Self-protection in this sense is not protection, but bondage. It does not heal, but rather throws a bandaid over a gaping wound. Allowing for moments of vulnerability actually provides the soothing balm needed to truly heal.
Ask the Lord to reveal to you the ideal people with whom you can be safely vulnerable. If you don’t have anyone in your life yet, ask for Him to help you connect with some. Do the work on yourself to become this person for someone else, too. Trust Him to provide for your needs in time.
Choose Your Life Intentionally, One Step at a Time
We may not have a choice in everything, but we surely have choices in most things. Be diligent and intentional with how you use this life.
You are a victim to your circumstances. You have been given exactly what you need to thrive in this life, regardless of your circumstances.
Make choices intentionally, and if a choice does not pan out, learn from the lesson and keep moving on.
Failure is only failure when you stop learning from the mistakes.Failure is only failure when you stop learning from the mistakes. Click To Tweet
No matter what, you have a choice, so choose wisely and with intention. Allow your authentic self to help you know where the Lord is directing you to go. Trust His leading and simply start walking.
…He will direct your steps.”
Breakthrough Comes from Intentional Living Over Time
It’s okay to have not already figured it all out. It’s okay to be in a stuck place of struggle.
But, you don’t have to stay there. There is a way out.
One step at a time, one lesson at a time, we are given the opportunity to grow and mature. And, you are worth doing the hard work. Trust the process. Trust the One leading the Way.
He will be with you every step of the way.