An interesting phenomenon occurred amongst the 'WWJD'(What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet owners. The point of the bracelet was for the person wearing it to be reminded to consider what Jesus would do in the same situation that faced the bracelet owner. Those that stopped to ponder the question seemed to access what they themselves felt, the emotions experienced in the situation at that moment, and compared it to a set of values they believed were God-given, or at the very least - the moral high-ground.
With personal religious feelings aside, one has to acknowledge that this practice assisted the individuals to experience authenticity on a very personal level. Consider that, although knowing who we are, what our values are and what we want out of life is important, being authentic requires us to weight those things against how we actually feel in the moment.
Knowing our values and being connected to our identity is a big step in the right direction when it comes to living authentically, but it is not the full picture. Authenticity is a liquid concept, that requires us to know who we are, yet put that knowledge aside for a moment to understand and acknowledge how we feel in that set of circumstances. Knowing who we are and what we want in our lives allows us to be genuine to our purpose, but it isn't until we can separate what we feel that we start to move into authenticity.
Let's for a moment consider Jack, an awkward and quiet man. Single for most of his life, Jack is focused on work, driven, ambitious, emotionally sensitive and very positive. Friends consider Jack to be gentle and soft spoken, a real people pleaser. Jack meets and falls in love with a gorgeous woman who acknowledges his love. Jillian is a sweet God-loving person that is fashion conscious. They seem to enjoy each other's company and after a year of courting the pair decided to move into a house together.
The honeymoon period fades quickly with Jillian claiming that Jack is moody and is given to fits of temper. She insists that he consult with someone to help him through his anger issues. After listening to the circumstances the therapist quickly points Jack to the concept of authenticity, or the lack thereof. Explaining that authenticity is being true to one's nature, the therapist describes how the emotional rollercoaster Jack experienced was due to incongruence with self, or not being true to self.
With a few well placed questions the therapist discovers that Jack grew up in a house of discourse. Much arguing and bickering between his parents saw Jack decide that he would not make the same mistakes as his parents in his own relationships. Jack became quiet, but adopted a very positive outlook on life. He chose to see the best in those around him, and when it wasn't so, Jack ignored the poor qualities, favouring only the positive connections. With the help of the therapist Jack realised his depression was linked to the fact that he was not true to himself concerning Jillian. As much as he loved her, he thought she was shallow and obsessed with external beauty. To avoid his parents mistakes Jack just ignored the feelings caused by these thoughts he had when he was with her.
Jillian was also talkative, which at first Jack thought was ideal to balance his quiet ways. It frustratedJack that she would not stop to listen when he did have something to say. Jack's ambition caused him to work hard long hours. This did not suit the more social Jillian who insisted on long afternoon lunches with Jack. Jack obliged, keeping in mind the mistakes his parents made and the vow he made not to repeat them.
This vow caused Jack to bury his frustrations concerning his time with Jillian, causing him to feel depressed and anxious, with more frequent outburst of anger. Jack was self aware. He also gave expression to his purpose, but ignored his frustration when Jillian wanted him to go shopping with her on a Wednesday afternoon, his busiest time at work. The turmoil in the relationship could have been avoided if Jack accessed the emotions he experienced at 12 o'clock each Wednesday when Jillian came to fetch him, and in a calm and adult manner explained to her his situation.
Knowing himself was not enough for Jack to move into authenticity, as it is more than just self-awareness. Having his heart communicate openly to his conscious mind about the emotions, and indeed sharing it with the love of his life, would allow Jack to walk authentically. Addressing the fact that he thought Jillian was shallow will require tact and maturity (maybe some roses too), but it will also offer Jillian an opportunity to open the doors to her authenticity and communicate her intent of heart to Jack.
Better sleep, deeper communication, healthier mind and a better understanding of self are but a few of the benefits of walking an authentic lifestyle. Personally, I am not a fan of wearing jewel, but wearing a 'WWJD' bracelet would help us to stop and consider four important questions that would assist us to be more authentic:
- What happened?
- What is important to me here?
- What do I feel about this?
- Because of what happened, what is important and what I feel now - what am I going to do next?
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