Facebook. A place filled with lots of interesting facts and lots of things that are something a little bit less…factual.
Think about what is posted and the motivation behind it. Are the words posted because attention is desired? Is this truly and authentically you? It is difficult to be authentic on the internet, when nothing is truly at stake. But think about it. How are these words received by others? Are your posts taken for inspiration? For assistance? Will you be received as something you aren’t?
I have frequently written about the twenty something desire to post every breath, thought and emotion on the internet, especially on Facebook before taking a deep breath, or before thinking of the reception these collection of emotions. The internet is a vast and expansive place where anonymity is somewhat permitted, and where people can become whatever and whomever they please to some extent. They can create certain identities, can slip into a position of victimhood, empowerment, or whatever they please in a moment’s notice, and then, a moment later, can be entirely something else. The wonderful thing about the internet is that it truly lives up to its previous moniker of the World Wide Web – a place where you can be who you want to be and not be held accountable to it.
But do you want to live this kind of life – split between the false realm of impersonal and even fake exchanges divided by pixels and screens and the real world where authenticity reigns? Do you want to be the person constantly being caught by others in a web of lies, scrambling to cover for this story or that, trying to remember which story you told when and where?
The bottom line is, plain and simple, don’t be something or someone you’re not. It is too complicated and too disingenuous to live two lives, especially when one is based entirely upon a series of untruths. If God had intended for us as created humanity to live two or more existences, he would have made it such that our lives were entirely that complicated yet simply gorgeous. But that isn’t the way it works – not at the moment, at least. Each of us were bestowed one story, with a series of doors, branches, streams of life, whatever you would choose to call them (narratives) that come off this main life story, and with each, our life becomes more dynamic and exciting. But we are still given only one life story, not two, three, four, or God forbid, five.
Authenticity is sacred, something that is created and cultivated, carefully forged, not in a moment, but over time. It is easily lost, and once lost, possibly not ever gained back. It can be lost over the matter of a lie, over the matter of untruth-telling, over a life lived without care for others. For me, authenticity is extraordinarily sacred, and is not taken lightly. But once secured, it is hard fought for, protected like a precious gem. But test it, try it, and all will be lost.
Illness (as well as tragedy, divorce, a loss, a separation, a huge life transition that is devastating, etc.) strips you of everything – dignity, privacy, and calls you to be only who you are – nothing else. It attempts to call into question who you are, even asking to rip away your very being – identity, personality, mobility, personhood. And yet authenticity is all you have. All you have is the truth – your story, who you are, what you are going through, every single day. To some extent, there are no hopes and dreams, only todays, and tomorrows. For those who are truly sick, authenticity is everything, and the desire to be normal is everything But for the fake sick, the possibilities of life are endless, and authenticity has no meaning – attention seeking is everything.
Where is this going? What is the point of this? It is all to say that authenticity is everything. Being who you are, for the sake of who God created you and only you to be is everything. It is all you have, and a tremendous gift! My short run yesterday, however taxing and humbling was a reminder of all this. Three years ago, I was able to run marathon distances – with chest pain, a sign of the impending doom I soon faced. Three years of illness, of not being able to do the things I loved – running, riding my bike, of being simply exhausted, of having to be constantly confronted with more “nos” than “yeses” gnawed away at my rough edges, and even some of the smooth, more refined ones. It revealed the person I truly was, as a close friend revealed to me one day – it forced me to examine who I truly was created to be. True and genuine illness calls into question the true identity of an individual, and forces a person to examine the important things, both good and bad.
Running Sunday, with my hair down, my brand new pacemaker scar out for the world to see like a badge of courage felt like the building back up of me. Not an inauthentic construction, but a reconstruction – the giving back of something I had been forced to give to the illness. My mechanical, battery-operated heartbeat is a vibrant, dynamic and blessed part of me. But it is NOT who I am, and it will never define me. I will continue to emphasize this time and time again – both for myself, and for others. Without the battery sitting just below my left collarbone, I’m not sure where I’d be. But it sure as heck doesn’t define me, and it doesn’t make me. Its not me. I am me because of my relationship with God, my relationships with others, and because of Christ’s willingness to go to the Cross on my behalf. A battery does not and will not define me. It never will be my middle name, it never will cause me to do anything, nor will it put a box around me. I never will be a certain thing because of a patient status. And nor will I allow anyone or anything to define me as such. This is why I will never be anything that I am not – yes I have a pacemaker, but I am NOT weak, I am not constantly thinking about what I can’t do, but rather thinking about what I can. I am not publicizing on a social media site what I cannot do, but glorifying God for what I can, and thanking the people who have made it possible for me to breathe deeply, walk in graduation next month, and serve God and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center in September day in and day out. Never should it be about the can’ts. It should only and always be about the cans…plain and simple, even when things are very challenging, and nearly impossible.
But it gives me the ability to get up, put on a pair of running shoes and hit the trails, take a deep breath, sing hymns at the top of my lungs in church (not very well, but God understands!), and belly laugh at my own terrible jokes. I am able to be who I am as a result of my highest highs and lowest lows. It took both to figure that out, and now I can be who I am again.
But I don’t post my every breath and thought on Facebook – some privacy is necessary, and is that authenticity? Does the world need to know these things? Are these who I really am? I don’t think the internet world (sad to say there is such a thing…) needs to become such a place that we clutter it with our bitches, gripes (against others, institutions, places of work, etc.). Is this who we are? I doubt it…sincerely!
Be inspirations for others, not Debbie or Don downers…What would you like to see on a given day? Would God be proud, sustained of and/or by your posts? Are you glorifying God through your internet action? Seriously. Contemplate this.
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