By Amber Ginter, iBelieve.com
Because I teach high school students, I recognize that vulnerability and transparency are challenging concepts to come by and live with, especially as fallen humans in a broken world. Perhaps it is pride, fear, or ignorance, but we've become kings and queens at "hiding our best parts, but leaving out the emotion" (Gary Turk, in his spoken word, "Look Up”).
On the first day of school, I make it my goal to "be real" with my students. I look them straight in the eye and share the brokenness of who I am and how God has redeemed me. I tell them that I come from a family of drug addicts, alcoholics, and worriers. I explain that I've seen my siblings shoot heroin, die, and come back to life. I often share that I've dealt with orthorexic and anorexic demons that still try to haunt me.
Yet, when it comes to sharing these things with family members, being "real" with them can seem intimidating and daunting. The number of students that share stuff with me instead of their immediate relatives is startling, but isn't that what we do as adults? Our friends ask how we are, and we say, "fine." We hide our secrets from those who say they know us best (and know us the least) for fear of what they will think of us when they see the truth.
Instead of shying away from who we are and who God has created us to be, it's time we are genuine with family despite the terror or concern that tries to engulf us.
How exactly then do we live in this state of honesty fearlessly? I believe that to be "more real" with your family, individuals need to be willing to be present, be bold, and be Christ-like.
1. Be Present
If you want your family to know the real you, we have to feel that we are with them mentally and emotionally as much as we are in physical proximity.
Have you ever been talking to someone and can tell that you haven't been listening? My students do it all the time! Maybe you said something and zoned out, or you heard the words they said, but it flew out the window of your mind with all the other passing thoughts of the day.
One of the first ways to be "more real" with those around you is to listen when they are talking, not to reply, but to welcome their thoughts and opinions. I know it doesn't sound easy and is often counterintuitive, but people want to feel heard more than hear advice.
Scripture tells us in James 1:19, "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (ESV). If you want to be sincere with those who surround your life, start by giving them things you can't get back, like time, an open heart, and a patient spirit. When we express these qualities to others, they will not only be more likely to share, but engage in a deeper relationship with those they call kin.
2. Be Bold
Although boldness is something many people see as frightening, being forward with family is necessary for growing in communion and fellowship with one another.
Growing up, my family has always been straightforward. I am an expert at being blunt and am never afraid to tell someone how I feel so that we can work to resolve an issue. However, when I started dating my boyfriend, I quickly realized that not every family is this way. Rather than directly dealing with a problem, they tend to lean on the side of avoidance or passive behavior. To say that our sides occasionally conflict with resolution would be an understatement. Nevertheless, this is the way that friendship and relationships with others are built.
Proverbs 27:17 in the ESV states, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another," and one thing I love about this Scripture is the boldness it presents in our walk with Christ. Jesus wants us to have friends and be real with them, but that doesn't mean that the Church and those who make up the body will always see eye-to-eye with you. These irons conflict and get heated more often than not, but they still try to see from one another's perspective.
The next time you get into an argument with a friend or family member, remember that your authenticity can be met by the fullness of God's grace, mercy, and love. It's okay to stand up for what you believe in, and it's okay to disagree with those who raised you. It's acceptable to disagree and agree to disagree and learn to love those who don't align 100% with everything you believe.
Of course, there are significant and minor issues that must be taken into account as with anything. However, if you want to be "more real" with those you love most, try seeing things from their perspective. Please don't run away from issues that need to be discussed; confront them and face them head-on. You can express your views while working towards a common ground that shows Christ's love and generosity to all.
Remember, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6, Christian or not, how we live our lives reflects the world. It is not about being right; it's about being holy, honoring God, and showing that love to the world.
"When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? … But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6: 1, 11, ESV)
3. Be Christ-Like
I know this might sound like a Christian cliche, but the most effective way to be "more real" with anyone is to be Christ-like at any and every moment.
Especially when it comes to dealing with messy humans and overwhelming emotions, the best thing we can do is take a deep breath and ask, "What would Jesus do, right here, right now, in this very moment?”
Since eight or ten years old, I have worn a torn and faded necklace around my neck that asks that very question. While I originally wore it to calm my anxiety and nerves, it immediately became a source of comfort and conviction to others.
Students in my class, college, or those I now teach have asked me countless times what it says and means. Even in a secular public school or liberal college, I've been able to present the gospel time and time again with the words, "What would Jesus do?”
While it may sound simple, I think we all know that being Christ-like 100% of the time is not easy. I can think of innumerable examples where I've been moody with my mom, lost my patience with a student, thought negative thoughts in my head about myself, or shocked myself to reality with how sinful I am.
Nevertheless, if we want to "be real," it starts with being who we are in Christ and who He's hand-crafted us to be.
1 Corinthians 11:1 remarks, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (ESV). Ephesians 5:1-2 also repeats this command: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
When we learn to be present, bold, and Christ-like with those around us, we will obtain a truer sense of sacrament and camaraderie that not only shares love with the world but changes us from the inside out. While focusing on our family, standing up for ourselves, and representing Jesus can present many challenges, those who seek the Lord above all else will be richly rewarded.
"To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24, ESV)
Amber Ginter is an aspiring 25-year-old writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Hoping to become a full-time freelancer, Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic ministry team (Aisthitikós Joy Ministries), and volunteer roles. She is also the author of The Story I've Never Told, which is currently in the publishing process. Amber has freelanced for Daughter of Delight, Kallos, Anchored Passion, Crosswalk, No Small Life, Darling Magazine, Called Christian Writers, Southern Ohio Today News, The Rebelution, Ohio Christian University, and The Circleville Herald. Visit her website at amberginter.com.