On the unhelpful advice of being authentic
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
-The Gospel of Thomas
Much talk is given to the idea of authenticity. Be authentic, we're told. Be yourself. But no one ever defines what authenticity is. In my mind, authenticity is simply presence. You cannot be authentic or have integrity without presence. When you are present, you are in tune with your inner experience. You are in flow. You are expressing yourself to others- as soon as you censor your words or your actions, you cease to become present. Like kinking a hose, you cease to flow into the world. Authenticity then is a moment-to-moment act of honoring and acting on our inner experience and intuition. So presence is authenticity, or at least the foundation of it, and continued presence to a given phenomenon requires that we react to it, rather than ignore or disconnect from it. Of course, the way we bring forth what is within us could be healthy or unhealthy, useful or destructive, but it must begin with awareness and release.
We cannot have personal integrity without this. Otherwise we are literally not whole as a person. We have cut ourselves off from the most basic, instinctual part of ourselves. Everything flows from presence to whatever is most alive in the here and now. Ever been around someone who doesn't seem quite there, because they are so in their head? It is hard to trust or respect them because they do not trust and respect themselves.
This inner experience, this moment-to-moment unveiling of self, is the most basic and most important component of who we are. Everything unfolds from this: ends and means, trust and sincerity, learning and transformation, nobility and excellence. And why bother hiding who we are? The people who like us will like us anyway, the people who don't won't. But like most well-worn cliches on how to live life, this must be learned from hard experience before it has any meaningful application in our lives. It is easy to bring forth what is within when it is easy, hard to bring it forth when we do not think the people around us will like what we bring forth. Yet that is when it matters the most. The fear is always worse than the thing itself. And the more the impulse dies within us when we hesitate, the worse the eventual bringing-forth will be. Every time I tell myself, "It's not a big deal, I'll forget about it and move on," it slowly grows into a big deal that must find its way out. The longer I wait, the more fallout it creates. When I bring it up in the moment, it is simply not a big deal to the people around me, because it is what is alive in the moment. It is natural.
This does not mean we are constantly spewing forth "truth" like some kind of purge, but we may have to start there. I do not believe it is healthy to stay there. Expression, the basis of human experience, requires transformation of the base material that is our pure energy and inner experience into something more contextually relevant. I do not want to punch or scream at someone just because I am angry. But I can transform that anger into something meaningful, useful, beautiful; like a mature conversation about boundaries and consequences. Or failing that, I can leave the situation completely. I always have the power to leave. If I do not, then I am ruled and defined by whatever it is I am not willing to leave. And so dies the human spirit.
...sees much and knows much