Have you ever had a cake that was more frosting or fondant than cake itself? When I encounter a cake like that, I usually scrape off the topping and eat the cake. The top part was only fluff anyway, and I prefer the substantial, chocolaty cake part.
Certain breads don’t sit well with me either—the kind where a bite will dissolve on my tongue, as if nothing was there at all. The thing is, just as there are cakes and breads that are a whole lot of nothing, there’s a certain kind of communication that is the same.
It’s the kind of talking where we name-drop to make ourselves appear better in others’ eyes, or where we exaggerate our accomplishments or other circumstances in order to appear more attractive to others. It’s where we project an untrue image that we want others to have of us.
When we aren’t authentic in our communications, we trade substance for sugar and cream, and there’s only so much of that that anyone can take. It’s funny, but all our bragging, boasting, and puffing ourselves up seems to have the opposite of the desired effect. People often like others who aren’t afraid to be themselves, and they have a negative reaction to those who try too hard to be liked.
There’s someone in the Bible who knew a thing or two about being authentic. John the Baptist was a guy who didn’t care about how others viewed him. He wore fur, ate bugs and honey, and probably never shaved. I’m guessing that he never tried to make himself appear better to others either.
He didn’t hype himself up. When asked whether he was the Christ, he wasn’t afraid to say that “One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”1 He spoke the truth at all times, and that’s what gained others’ trust.
In a society overflowing with hype, people who aren’t afraid to be real and honest about where they’re at or who talk about the core of what they believe—they stand out.
It is about having the courage to be the person God created each of us to be and staying true to that vision.
I’ve been mulling this over because I know it’s an area of my life that constantly needs improvement. So far, I’ve come up with two basic points that have been a help to me in being authentic and genuine in how I show myself to others.
First, spend time with God. When I’m spending enough time with God, I become less concerned about what others think of me. I stop wanting to create an image of who I think I should be, and become satisfied that God knew what He was doing when He created me. I have found that as I spend time with Him, He reveals to me what He had in mind when He made me and placed me where He did.
Second, be open. I need to let people get to know the person I am behind the smoke and mirrors. It’s natural to want people to think well of me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever grow out of the desire to be admired and loved, but where I’m wrong is thinking that a made-up version of who I am is better than the real me. The people I look up to and admire are those who have revealed their hearts to me—friends, mentors, and others who have pulled back the surface layer of mundane conversation to show me their hearts.
Getting to that place where we decide to be real can make all the difference in our interactions with others, because it’s so much better to communicate a substantial something than a whole lot of nothing.
- Luke 3:16