How Are We Real?
Pope John Paul II forgives his would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca

How Are We Real?

A characteristic of Christianity is genuine authenticity. As we grow toward wholeness in Christ, we strengthen unity within ourselves and, thereby, within the people of God. There is no discrepancy between our public life and our private life. Authenticity expresses itself in what we do-and-say. Our words and behavior reflect what we believe. Because we live without duplicity or deceit, we have nothing to hide, no hidden agendas and little to fear. The core of our being, our actions, and our ethical and moral principles are based on the teachings of Jesus. Authenticity is not fixed. It takes effort, receptivity to grace and sincerity to keep it viable.

Another characteristic of authenticity is sincerity. Sincerity is an interesting word because of its use. We can be sincere about many things that range from the very-good to the very-bad. People can be sincere about collecting stamps, baking pies or being in a new age movement. However, as Christians we choose to be sincere in being followers of Christ. Committed Christians are not primarily identified by their culture, society, or other temporal entities. Each of us is a one-of-a-kind expression of a dearly loved son or daughter of God.

The apostle Paul told the Philippians, “Be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10). Sincere comes from a Latin word, meaning “without wax.” In ancient Rome, if anyone wanted an authentic statue of high quality, carved by someone who was an authentic sculptor, they would go to the artisans’ marketplace in Rome and look for a booth with a sign sine cera or without wax. In the “sine cera” booths one could find the real thing. No flaws, cut corners, fake material, cover ups or shady transactions.

Abraham Heschel tells us, “Self-respect is the root of discipline. The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” Saying no to temptations and not letting people influence us to be or to do anything we do not want to be or do are sure signs of self-respect. Maintaining self-respect is a continual challenge to be a better, meaning deeper, person. If we take care of ourselves, we believe that God will take care of those who hurt us. As Jesus taught, we pray for those who persecute us. If we leave vengeance to God, we can let go of retribution or getting even. They only distance us from our self-respect by encrusting us with bitterness.

Self-respect must remain intact so that it may nurture a respect for others. Respect for others reminds us that we are all in this world together. Everyone is equally important and should be treated with dignity. Dignity specifies that we value others as our brothers and sisters. It is not all about me; it is all about us as people of faith on the road to God. There are many ways to show respect for others. Here are some examples: We are on time for appointments and meetings. We meet deadlines and keep people’s feelings in mind when we voice an opinion contrary to theirs. We are gentle with others and firm with ourselves.  We are prudent when considering our response to other people’s cultures and values. If we are entrusted with confidential information, we keep it confidential. It is wise to remember to speak after we asked ourselves these questions: Are my words true? Are my words necessary? Are my words kind? Will what I say brighten or dampen someone’s dreams or aspirations?

So how do we become an authentic Christian? We try as best we can to live the words of Meister Eckhart: “Be in all things a God seeker and at all times a God finder. Among all kinds of people and in all kinds of circumstances. And make it a life habit to copy Jesus Christ. To do what he did and to avoid what he avoided. Always learn to love him as he loves us.”

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Written by
Carolyn Humphreys, O.C.D.S.