Authenticity is not so much a character trait as it is a state of being. To be authentic, you have to choose to be transparent. Doing so naturally makes you quite vulnerable. But it also opens the door to true intimacy with another.
Acting with a sincere heart and benign purpose helps others trust us. But it also helps us trust ourselves. And trust, is the bedrock of any healthy relationship.
Each and every moment is an unearned gift. And it’s up to us to make every moment count. We do that by living each moment mindfully, in communion with the larger reality that connects us all. And whatever you call it, it’s this “higher power” the narcissists among us refuse to even recognize let alone serve. Truly noble characters place all their trust in this ultimate reality, and not in themselves or anyone or anything else.
When you act with sincere heart and purpose, it’s like living out of the sweet spot of your character. You act from the very core or center of your being.
The principles or virtues the commandments promote work together. So they naturally overlap and complement each other. And if someone observes one or two, it’s more likely they’ll observe others as well. People of sincere heart and purpose act openly in the light. They act without manipulation or self-deception. They don’t hesitate to act in the light because they are of the light. And their goodness shines as a beckoning beacon to others.
We live in an exhibitionistic, self-aggrandizing, and self-indulgent society. It’s also largely an everyone for himself or herself society. It’s hard to become a conscientious, obligated, civil, and generous person in such an environment.
True generosity is generosity of spirit. It can be as simple as a kind word to an overburdened store clerk. Yes, it can mean giving money to those in need. But it’s really more about the spirit (and character) of the giver than the need of the recipient.
Social mores and customs have loosened up considerably. Folks are not as repressed as they once were. They have less unreasonable guilt and shame about relatively inconsequential things and are therefore less “neurotic.” But we’ve paid a dear price for the “whatever feels right for you” relativism that’s replaced our older respectability norms. And we don’t have as clear a sense of decency and civility as we once had.
True peace, joy, and love can only be found in the context of relationship. That’s why I’ve devoted my career to helping folks successfully navigate through our character-disordered times.
Behaving in a decent and civil manner doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or abused. It just means we don’t have to act like we believe we’ve been treated. Rather, we should act like we would want to be treated.