Sometimes I'd like the ability to put a filter on my life story. Lark, Clarendon, Juno, Ludwig - any of the above would work. Highlight the beautiful parts, glaze over the imperfections.
Whenever I get the, "Where are you from?" question, I always look forward to their response when I say, "Africa." I can count on a look mixed with surprise and intrigue. The questions that follow are the best – did you have cheetahs in your backyard? Did you have a pet elephant? Were your parents dignitaries?
A most recent response was one that surprised me. "Wow, that's so glamourous," he said.
I took a second to respond, realizing that I was in the exact moment where I decide which version of myself I portray. This well-traveled, cultured, even "glamorous" woman, or the real me, the true me – the girl who saw first-hand the heartbreak of poverty, who lived among a people group that will likely never place in the Olympics or make the news.
This time I paused, and smiled, "No, actually, it really wasn't glamorous."
"West Africa," I said, "not South Africa."
There's a reason that over 162 million posts on Instagram are tagged with #nofilter. I think it's because we understand that the greatest beauty is found in the clean, unedited version.
We have daily opportunities to make ourselves look and sound better than we actually are. I opened up to one of my mentors one day, a leader in our church that I greatly respect. And what she told me completely changed the way that I viewed honesty. She said this - any layer of deception, whether implied or outright, is a lie.
I had this view that lying was contained, black and white. You ate a cookie and told your mom that you didn't. We all grew out of that, right? We're too old to lie.
And I started to realize that we didn't grow out of it. We just evolved it as we matured.
- "Yeah, I presented in front of my entire company about a new health initiative yesterday." It was actually for 30 seconds and about the softball game coming up on Wednesday night.
"Yeah, I was a track-star in high school and set the school record." It was actually a school that only had 45 people in a very small state.
"Yeah, I started an orphanage in Kenya." It was actually a one-time donation to the group that started the orphanage.
Sound familiar? Those technically true statements are actually just full of filters and edits. The kind of statements where one question into the details can implode the entire scenario.
"Any layer of deception is a lie," her words reverberated in my mind. I realized that living a life of honesty, and integrity, means dropping the curtain of the person you would like to be and becoming completely comfortable with the person that you are.
Even when it makes you look, maybe not even subpar, but just – average. I think at the root of it all we aren't necessarily afraid of failing. We're just afraid of being normal.
We all crave to be in the company of people that are genuine. We all know those people - they have such a strong assurance of who they are, and they present their true self without the "fear of average." Those people that always give us the real version of themselves.
The South African version of ourselves – whatever that is for you – is usually filled with an element of pride. It elevates ourselves in the eyes of others. But the real version of ourselves requires vulnerability. And houses humility.
Up until recently, I've been completely confused as to what "humility" actually meant. "Low view of one's own importance," "unassertiveness," "humiliate," is what Webster's dictionary likes to say.
Which doesn't make sense, because we hear repeatedly that God loves a humble heart. James 4:6 says "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
So humility can't be about putting yourself down, because the Bible tells us an entirely different story – that we are so loved, that each of us has a calling, that we are holy and set apart and beautiful, unique. God certainly does not want us to see ourselves as inadequate, or debase ourselves. It's actually the complete opposite.
True humility is seeing yourself exactly as God sees you. No more. No less. And certainly no filter.
When you start to see yourself in the way that God does, the by-product on your life is beautiful. It becomes easy to present the real version of yourself – because your value is not something that you are trying to acquire from other people's eyes.
A couple of months ago I met some friends for breakfast one morning. In between banana chocolate crepes at a bakery in Brooklyn, she received a text from a boy asking her to go to the Mets game that night. She wasn't very interested in him, and so we all offered up suggestions as to how to get out of it – too busy, something else to do, plans with someone else, etc. etc.
She said, "You know, I'm trying this new thing where I'm trying to be 100 percent honest. In everything. So I'm going to tell him that it's really sweet, but I'm not interested in him like that."
I respected her so much in that moment. And I decided, you know what, I should strive to live the exact same way.
100 percent honest.
Until next time,