Monday, May 27, 2013

How to be the Real Thing, Part 2: Honest With Others

Complete and absolute honesty is the key to being the ”real thing”, We can never be truly effective or successful until we are real. It’s something we are all working on. Last time we talked about being honest with yourself. Here are a few more thoughts to help you in the process. In order to be genuine we must also be honest with others.

Always tell the truth as graciously as possible. We have all heard the phrase “a little white lie”. The implication is that a “white lie” is an acceptable lie, even a necessary one to spare someone’s feelings. But a lie is a lie is a lie. It’s never really okay.

I tend to be very aware of other people’s feelings and try really hard, sometimes too hard, to avoid hurting them. There was a particular time when I answered someone’s question in a way that was meant to spare the person’s feelings, yet I left the conversation feeling uneasy. In talking it out with my husband, he pointed out that I was feeling uneasy because I had lied. I had never thought of it that way and the revelation shocked me! It’s been very important to me to tell the truth and equally important not to hurt people’s feelings, but at that moment I realized that sometimes the two can fight for supremacy. In those cases the truth must win. It can be delivered in a gracious and loving way, but in order for us to be authentic we must tell the truth!

If you can't do it, say so. As we step out into new territory we are going to be asked to take on new responsibilities. It’s going to feel really good to be sought after and offered new opportunities. It is going to be tempting to say “yes” to every offer and every opportunity. In order to remain genuine you and I need to honestly evaluate each opportunity based on our actual abilities, schedule, etc. It can be really hard to say “no”. We can’t be concerned about the other person’s reaction. We need to be most concerned with being honest about our God-given capabilities and circumstances. It’s necessary in our quest to be the “real thing”.

People-pleasing causes dishonesty. This is a huge area of potential downfall for most of us, whether we realize it or not. We are often unaware when our responses are motivated by people-pleasing. We all want to be loved, appreciated, and affirmed. We want people to notice our good work, our strong character, our ability to face challenges. We will tend to tell the best about ourselves and leave out the faults. We will tend to say “yes” to people because we don’t want to make them upset with us.

In order to grow in being the “real thing”, authentic and genuine, we need to evaluate how much we are motivated by people-pleasing. The only way to overcome it is to begin to recognize it. When you get right down to the core there is really only One worth pleasing. He is more easily pleased than we think, and is most pleased when we are truthful since He is the Truth.

Don’t hesitate to be truthful with others. Be as gracious as you can. Make your goal to be authentic and genuine rather than to please people. Make your goal to please God instead. You will find it much more satisfying!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How To Be "The Real Thing": Honest With Myself

At the heart of being "the real thing" is truth. In order to be "true", the genuine article, authentic, we have to become absolutely honest with ourselves, with others and with God. What does it look like to be absolutely honest? Let’s start by being honest with ourselves.

I admit my weaknesses as well as my strengths. It can be really hard to admit my weaknesses, but if I have a false view of humility I may have an equally difficult time admitting my strengths. Everyone who makes character a priority knows that humility is a quality to be desired. Many times in our efforts to portray ourselves as humble we avoid acknowledging our strengths, deflecting all praise. True humility does not mean that I focus only on my weaknesses and ignore my strengths. True humility means that I accurately appraise both my strengths and weaknesses. To deny my strengths is to deny the One who gave them to me. When I reject any praise for something I really am good at the result is a lack of truth. It’s okay to say “Thanks” and, actually, a more genuine and humble response.

I recognize that I can't do it all. Truth means that I am honest about what I can’t do. This may include a lack of ability or time, a personality ill-fitted to the required task or a family need that requires me to set aside a particular endeavor. I have to honestly evaluate myself and my situation. Determination is a great quality, but when determination causes me to overlook my real limitations, then it causes me to lack honesty. Proverbs 19:2 says “Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good...”

It can be painful to admit that I am honestly ill-equipped to accomplish something that I really want to do. A candid evaluation may help me discern that I am not ready now, but could, with some preparation, be ready in the future. But a truthful assessment may also tell me that my goal needs to be adjusted because what I am shooting for will always be out of my reach.

There are times when I have been limited because of artificial boundaries, but then there are the boundaries that are built into me. If I ignore those, then I ignore the One who built them into me. A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Part of being honest is accepting that not every opportunity available is the right opportunity for me. Sometimes I will need a lot of wisdom to discern correctly.

I accept that perfection in this life is not possible. For some reason, perfection was definitely a goal that I used to strive for. But I have learned the difference between a pursuit of perfection and a pursuit of excellence. Honesty demands that I accept the fact that perfection is simply not an attainable goal. There will always be some kind of flaw in me and, therefore a flaw in my efforts. However, excellence is possible.  Excellence means that I put forth my best effort in everything that I do. Recognizing my inability to achieve perfection allows me to be content with my efforts knowing that I have honestly done my best. This allows me to relax and enables my efforts to be more successful.

Take some time to honestly evaluate yourself. Don’t ignore your strengths. Admit your real weaknesses and limitations. Make a plan to work on improving what you can. Learn to shoot for excellence rather than perfection. There is freedom in that. Go for it! It’s within your reach!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Are You the Real Thing?

Since character is the most important resource on your journey, we are going to take some time talking about it. What is it and how do you get it?

A role model helps, but...... As a young woman with a newly-begun relationship with Christ I was in need of a role model, someone who demonstrated the kind of person I wanted to be. My pastor's wife was it. I watched what she did and tried really hard to be like her. That didn't go so well.

You can't fake character.  In my efforts to be like my pastor's wife it never occurred to me that what she did and how she responded went deeper than the surface. I really had no clue what character was and my efforts to be like her lacked any real depth. 
Finally, a friend who loved me enough to tell me the truth tried to help me understand. She told me that I was like a "spiritual doll". I didn't know what she meant at the time, but eventually I began to grasp it. I said all the right things, even did many of the right things, but my words and actions didn't ring true because I didn't have sufficient character to support what came out of my mouth. It was empty and arrogant and not helpful to those I thought that I was imparting words of "wisdom" to. 

The real thing takes time. Once I began to understand that wisdom and character take time and life experience I stopped easily dispensing "wisdom". I began to really listen to people and to genuinely care for them. As I've lived my life with my sights set toward developing  Christ-like character, I have learned more about life and God.  I hope that when I open my mouth or set fingers to a keyboard that my words ring true with the weight of life experience. That can't be bought, faked or rushed. Like a fine wine, it has to be "aged". 

Character is developed along the journey, but not without the effort of choice. Keep your eyes pointed in the right direction, make choices based on what you know to be right and true, and little by little you will develop character. You may not notice, but others will. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What is the true foundation? Dare to be.

As you dare to dream, to imagine a life beyond artificial boundaries, and dare to do, to take action toward achieving your dream, there will be something else that you need to do. You will need to dare to be. Dare to be the person that you imagine you can be; a person with unquestionable character. Character is the most important thing that you can pack for your pioneer journey beyond your familiar borders.  But how do you add character to your list of resources needed to make the trip?

It’s developed over time. The truth is you can’t really pack character. Character is built and developed. It is like the formation of a diamond. It takes a long time and a great deal of pressure. Character is the foundation to build your dream on. It’s what enables you to support the new opportunities that await you as you step out. You can be working on your character every day, no matter what you are doing or what you are facing. It is a lifelong process that will continue throughout your entire journey.

It’s how you respond. Character is developed through the choices you make about how you respond to what is happening in your life. If you want a strong character, if as a Christian you want to demonstrate the character of Christ to the world around you, then you develop it through how you respond to the stresses and trials that you encounter in your everyday humdrum life. Stellar character can only be created through difficulty. That’s a fact that can’t be avoided. If you make character your priority, then every day is a new opportunity to build that foundation through the small annoyances and big stresses of life.

It determines the true success of every step you take.  Without character you will crumble under the pressure of new responsibilities and new temptations. This is also a fact that can’t be avoided. No one sets out on a trip intending to get lost or sidetracked. Those who are intent on making it to their destination in a timely manner take the time to prepare, to make sure they know where they are going and how to get there. It’s the preparation that helps them to succeed.

The development of your character is the single most important preparation to make before and during your boundary-exploring expedition. Without character you will damage your opportunities by not treating people well. You may succumb to temptations that lead you beyond the healthy borders established for relationships in God’s word. New opportunities bring temptations to compromise your integrity. Without character you will find yourself vulnerable and unable to stand in what you know is true and right.

Your character is the only thing that you will take with you when you leave this life for the next. Your character is what people will remember. Your character is the legacy that you leave, the example that you set. People may remember what you do, but if you have developed authentic character they will want to emulate who you are. That is the best kind of success. Dare to be a person of Christ-like character.