48 – To Move from Playing a Role to Authenticity
Excerpted from Second Wind for the Second Half (Zondervan, released January 1999)
I have often thought that the best way to define a person’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon them, they felt themselves most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says, “This is the real me!” William James, 1842-1910
In September my wife, our eighteen-year-old son, and I were sitting together in a little diner where we would share our last meal together.
Within a few hours we would separate. He would go in one direction to the exhilarating new world of college. Patsy and I would drive off in the other direction toward an empty home filled with the agreeable ghosts of many happy memories.
As I weighed what final advice to offer this son who has always made me proud, I said, “John, among men over 35 I hear a common regret – it’s one I’ve had myself. In their early years of adulthood, most men play out the role or roles they think will help them get ahead and make other people happy.
“By their middle years, though, these men often feel like they have cheated themselves. They realize they have not lived with authenticity. I want to encourage you to be who you are, not the person you think others expect you to be. Continue to find your own authentic self in these next few years, and you will avoid those regrets.”
THE PROBLEM OF INAUTHENTIC LIVING
Are you in the first or second half of your adult productive life? During the first half, from ages 25 to 50, most of us live out the “role” we perceive will take us where we want to go or the “role” someone else prescribed for us. Some even end up living the dream a loved one has for them, like one man I know whose father pushed him to become a dentist.
Think how often you set goals to “move up” – not because it’s who you are, but because the world says happy is higher. How many of us can say, “I’ve been a fool. I’ve been living out a role that others have scripted for me, a role that doesn’t celebrate my talents. This is not the real me.”
Ideally, a sense of calling would lead each of us to places where we can celebrate and showcase our unique giftedness. Often, however, we get sidetracked by less satisfying ambitions.
The inauthentic will find you. You don’t have to go in search of the inauthentic. It beckons you to flash a plastic smile, to laugh a little too hard, to do whatever is necessary to get the deal, and to not waste your time on that person.
Whether or not you have reached midlife, you have probably tired of playing roles and long for something deeper, more meaningful. And if you have reached midlife or are in your second half, becoming authentic is a consuming passion.
When you awaken in the morning, you want to pulsate with anticipation for the new day. You want to get back to that thing you love to do; that thing you are uniquely gifted to do; that thing which completely expresses who you are. You want to scream at the top of your lungs, “This is the real me!” You can get there from here.
FINDING YOUR TRUE SELF
Recently a 38 year old man said his business was in trouble, his walk with Christ was shaky, and his love for his wife was fading. He wanted to know what, if anything, he could do.
In our seminars we teach men how to be spiritual leaders, better fathers, more loving husbands, and improved decision makers. But that won’t “cut it” when a man feels desperate for authenticity.
What this man (and many of us) needs is a spiritual revival. The road to authenticity begins at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. We need to humble ourselves and plead for God to become the one, central reality of our lives. We need to plead with him to take the roof off, and drench us with his Holy Spirit like fresh rain.
Throw yourself on the mercy of our great, holy, loving God. Plead for your soul. Plead the blood of Jesus Christ. Plead for your family. Plead for your marriage. Weep. Cry out. Beg for deliverance.
There are no shortcuts. Authenticity is that which is genuine, true, and real. It takes time and effort to find the authentic. Authenticity is found indeep pools where rivers meander slowly along. It is found next to still ponds which reward you with reflections if you will look a long while.
Consider this letter from a friend,
I lost my job in a ‘restructuring’ and, for the first time, began to realize where my real allegiances were. It was really the first time in my life when I sought the Lord honestly.
I remember sitting in my living room early in the morning with no place to go, but having time to just be with the Lord. I learned for the first time to pray honestly without an agenda, to study the Bible without an agenda, and to listen to God speaking to my heart. This by itself radically changed who I am today.
You wrote how you “stared at your navel” for two years. This is it, really. This is the turning point, and the only “task” that can result in inner change. Without something on this order, we might be able to put on a good show. But we are really just being fooled.
You would probably agree that the navel gazing period was the beginning of God’s work to build you into the person you are now and are becoming. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that men do need ideas about how to be successful, but unless we tell them how to get to know God it will be like giving a man a luxury car without the key.
I’m convinced that one of the biggest problems today is that people cannot stand the idea of being still. We run like mad so we don’t have to stop and think about stuff. In order to truly have a turning point in our lives, we have to learn to be still.
How can we encourage men – even if they don’t have a catastrophe – to stop fooling themselves, and to just be honest with God?
Be patient. There is a time to do and there is a time to be. When you suspect you lack authenticity – that you have been playing a role – it’s a time to come apart and simply “be” with God. Because God is good, your life will not turn out like you planned – it will turn out better. Bring yourself into the real presence of Christ, and he will show you what to do.
Practically speaking, spend a few moments reflecting on these questions . . .
We’ve raised the issue of moving from playing a “role” that pleases others to discovering a fresh sense of authenticity. Does this resonate with where you are? Where are you are in that process?
What are the “roles” you have played of which you have tired? Did they take you where you wanted to go, and why or why not? Do you feel like you have gypped yourself, and why or why not?
When was the last time you felt deeply and intensely active and alive, wanting to scream, “This is the real me!”? What was it that made you feel that way?
How has playing a role kept you from pursuing the authenticity which can only be found in Christ? What step can you take today to put your relationship with Christ back on track?
Would you like some help understanding your current season of life? Order The Seven Seasons of a Man’s Life today. Through a special offer, the paperback version is available for only $7.50, plus $3.50 shipping/handling. Call 800-929-2536 ext. 2.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1998. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.