Saturday, June 4, 2011

Being Authentic Without Being Rude

The other day I posted a blog about how Christians sometimes use “nice” words to say harsh things. I want to follow up on that concept by addressing the importance of authenticity, but being mature enough not to say everything that pops into our heads.

Because of technology, our culture is inundated with information. We can tweet, Facebook, instant message and blog our opinions about anything to anything with the touch of a button. In an instant the whole world can know what we think about any particular subject, event or person.

Though there are some positive things about having access to all this information, there are also negatives. One of the problems is that much of this information that circulates so rapidly is just not true. Politicians spin stories in order keep their poll numbers up. Celebrities hire press agents to project personas that do not really exist. Teenagers get mad at a boyfriend/girlfriend and start a rumor about them that goes viral in an afternoon. Once this twisted information is out there, it is hard to take back or correct.

We are surrounded by half truths and falsehoods. It is hard to know who to believe. The prevalence of incorrect information has caused many people in our nation to value transparency. We are tired of all the “fake” stuff. We just want people to look us in the eye and be honest with us, even if we do not agree with what they are saying. We want genuine authenticity from our leaders and from those around us with whom we interact with on a regular basis.

Though all age groups are looking for authenticity, it is especially important to young people. Many of them feel like they have been lied to their entire lives. They have grown weary of having to wonder if what they are hearing is true.

This new desire for honesty is leading some young people to cross the line between genuine transparency and just plain rudeness. Dr. Jean Twenge holds a Ph.D. in personality psychology from the University of Michigan. She has done extensive research on Americans between the ages of 7 and 36. From that research she has written a scholarly book entitled, GENERATION ME: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled, and More Miserable Than Ever Before. Dr. Twenge, who is herself a young adult, is quite candid when describing her generation. She says "because we no longer believe that there is one right way of doing things, most of us were never taught the rules of etiquette." Because many young adults were never taught proper etiquette, they are driven by their desire for authenticity and transparency to say rude things. They say rude things in stores to complete strangers. When they say rude things, they may not even realize just how rude what they are saying is. Even Christians can fall into this trap, which is why I addressed this subject in a previous post.

But this new level of rudeness has made our culture increasingly raw. It keeps tension levels between individuals higher than what is healthy. It makes explosions of anger and public temper tantrums more common. While our society may accept public temper tantrums from preschoolers in a grocery store because their parents will not buy them a candy bar, do we really want it from 35 year olds in the office, or the fitness center, or the church?

I believe it is time for us to grow up emotionally. If no one taught us proper etiquette, then we need to teach it to ourselves. I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul write in First Corinthians 13:11 (HCSB) “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” Paul was simply saying that as we mature emotionally, we should be able to have transparent relationships without acting like children. It is possible to be authentic and still leave certain words or comments unsaid. Our culture must come to grips with this. Our culture needs Christians to lead the way in this area. Are we willing?

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

1 comment:

  1. Terry, great thoughts. I have experienced ths very thing in more than one church. Rather than gentle conversations that seek to build another person, many use their words to tear each other apart. But that is what Paul said in Galatians 5:15, "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Many churches have been destroyed by this very thing.