Psalms 84; 150, Jeremiah 23:16-32, 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, Mark 8:31-9:1
There’s a type of message that seems to pop up frequently in social media. It generally says: “Take me as I am or watch me as I go.” Intended as a phrase of self-empowerment, it may be exactly that for people who’ve suffered rejection for something beyond their control. However, when it’s used to deflect criticism, dismiss self-reflection, or justify one’s own needlessly abrasive behavior … it’s the message of a child. Mature people remain open to change and growth. They also realize other people’s feelings do actually matter.
But it’s a balancing act. Considering other people’s feelings doesn’t mean betraying our own values. Cursing like a sailor at a church bake sale (or proselytizing at an explicitly secular event) is merely offensive, not principled; on the other hand defending free speech may require us to offend some people. Being authentic doesn’t mean expressing every thought that comes into our heads regardless of circumstance. We all learn to moderate ourselves around our bosses so we don’t lose our jobs; we should have the same respect for people who don’t hold power over us.
The Apostle Paul was too devoted to his mission to simply make controversial proclamations and end with: “Take me or leave me.” Rather, he developed relationships by empathizing with – and perhaps more importantly building relationships with – those he wanted to reach. As he wrote to the church in Corinth, to the Jews he became as a Jew, to the weak he became weak, to those under the law he became as one under the law. He never sacrificed his core message, but customized his delivery for the sake of the Gospel. Paul knew relationships supersede religion. We don’t persuade by judging; we persuade by engaging.
Our lives are more fulfilling when we find ways to point our core values and true selves toward service. If we have a big mouth, we can speak for the voiceless. If we are flamboyant, we can draw focus where it will do good. If we have a dark sense of humor, we can bridge the gap between suffering and ignorance. Don’t ever be ashamed of your story and truth, but remember you share space with other equally deserving stories and truths.
Comfort: It’s good to be yourself.
Challenge: It’s not so good to use “being yourself” as an excuse to be hurtful to others.
Prayer: Lord, I know you have created me for service. Help me to let let my gifts shine in ways that honor you and the creation you love. Amen.
Discussion: Do you ever struggle to balance being authentic with being loving?
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