Thursday, January 24, 2013

honesty is such a lonely word: authentic living

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We live in the Age of the Fraud. Look at just three recent headlines:
  • A lauded athlete who is admired by many and recognized for his athletic prowess, for successfully fighting cancer, and for creating an influential nonprofit that benefits millions, finally admits all his wins were due to his use of performance enhancing drugs.
  • Another athlete’s tear-inducing story of tenacious perseverance through the death of his grandmother and girlfriend loses respect when the public learns neither the grandmother’s death nor the existence of the girlfriend can be validated.
  • An author writes a best-selling memoir about her traumatic upbringing in a Los Angeles foster home and subsequent decline into the drug gang life, only to later admit she grew up in a privileged home with her biological parents, attended private parochial schools, and has never been in a gang.
This is a small sample of people in the recent news who have proven to be frauds.

The sad thing is, all of these people had great things going for them. They were strong and talented and driven. They did good work. They had opportunity to accomplish much and influence the people around them in amazing ways.
But that wasn’t good enough. Either because of internal or external pressure, they chose a road of deception. Somehow they thought the good things they brought the table were just not good enough. They needed to be better, stronger, more worthy of empathy than they actually were. They needed better press.
In other words, they lied.
We are inundated with news and stories and photos every hour of every day. Hundreds if not thousands of stories flash before us, each begging us to stop and read them. (And be influenced by the advertising that sponsors them….)
Everyone is vying for the top slot, the most views, the highest ratings, the most impressive figures. It’s not easy to go viral and get on top,. It’s even harder to stay there.  With the breakneck speed of our culture, our attention is assaulted not every day, but every hour, maybe every portion of an hour. The person on top today is forgotten tomorrow. Or even this afternoon.
What a crazy treadmill.
The three people referenced above are a miniscule fraction of the people who are seeking attention. To get attention, you have to stand out. Unfortunately, to stand out these days, you have to be extreme. To be extreme, sometimes you have to exaggerate and enhance and use every means possible to top the last guy.
Or, in old fashioned terms, you have to lie.
Most of us do it.
Oh, not you? Really?
Answer me this: When is the last time you posted a bad photo of yourself on Facebook?
I will freely admit I post only those photos that emphasize the positive and de-emphasize (or downright hide) the things I like least about myself.
That stops today.
Not that I don’t want to appear attractive. I do. But I am fighting the desire to be something I am not.
Because the older I get, the more I realize that I have a pretty great package to work with. I'm not unique or special in that. I am the person God and my parents and my life have made. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I have as much to offer as anyone else.
Just like you do.
I have a friend from high school who is still married to her high school sweetheart, has successfully raised two young men, and is a brilliant mathematician. On top of all that and more, she makes the most amazingly beautiful painted cookies you’ve ever seen. Each one is a work of art. But over Christmas I caught her belittling herself on Facebook because she doesn’t know how to make pretty bows.
See what I mean?
We all have our own unique gifts and abilities and outlooks and things to offer the people around us. Maybe they are different from what people around us have. Maybe they are different from what we wished we had. But if we take the time to look honestly at ourselves, I think we would be amazed with how rich we are.
As I set my goals for 2013, I have to establish a new baseline of being Authentic. As such, I am ready to:
  • Not worry about whether I stick out like a sore thumb.
  • Not be concerned about whether others think my ideas or contributions are valuable.
  • Not pretend to be royalty or famous or rich or uber interesting.
  • Not care about what number the label on the inside of my pants reads.
  • Not betray and belittle what I actually have to offer.  
  • Not expand the ranks of the frauds.
I am declaring 2013 the Year of Authenticity.
With one major exception. My hair. Gotta be honest - I do not look good in grey. Red is my signature. My AUTHENTIC signature, as a life-long redhead.  
As such, I do confess I will NEVER show my authentic haircolor to the world. My husband has promised me under pain of haunting that if I am disabled he will either hire someone to color my hair or mud it himself.
However, I do vow that I shall only ever use Authentic henna.
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