The Shallow, the Wannabe's, and the Must be's"
Musing over this month’s topic has kept my mind thoroughly entertained – nay, pre-occupied – with one line from Romans 12:9:
“Love must be sincere…”
There is a serious disconnect in our world about what love really is. And I think it hinges on the truth stated in this verse that “love must be sincere." Maybe our inability to understand love is our inexperience with sincerity.
Can you close your eyes, still your mind, and conjure up what sincerity looks like…feels like…sounds like…? Would we recognize it if we saw it, met it, and heard it? I am afraid that the majority of the people in this world would not be able to do so. And that is, in my opinion, one of the saddest realities of our current day. Because almost everything in life is built on this concept of reality: it is what it is, not what it pretends to be. Love must be...sincere...real.
Sincerity is a characteristic surrounding an individual who is being, thinking, speaking, and engaging with the world with their full self. Mental health professionals call this type of functioning “congruency”. The mind is thinking what the mouth is saying, and the body is acting from the heart’s beliefs; and they are all working in accordance with the same framework. There is no pretense or deceit in the various parts that make up the whole of who they truly are.
Being sincere is not simply being honest. It is being truly honest through and through, in every nook n’ cranny. It is intentional inspection of self with the intent to bring all these pieces of yourself into congruency, so that you can live and love with a sincere heart.
This kind of living is hard and necessary in order to experience the fullness of Life in our deepest self. In fact, it is so hard that it requires the help of someone greater than ourselves: God.
Perhaps this why even David, a “man after God’s own heart,” prayed: “Search me and know me; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). Anxiety is divided living. The root word from which “anxious thoughts” comes, is translated: division, divided thoughts. When I am the worst version of myself, it is usually because I need to admit my inner life has been divided somehow. If I am not acting in congruence with what I think, feel, or believe, then I am indeed anxiously engaging in the world in a sort of costume, hoping that the reality of who I am is hidden by who I pretend to be. But, in order to accomplish this, I must divorce one part of me from the other part(s) of me...and I am torn from within. (Indeed, what wretched anxiousness!)
I believe this verse may be the most daring prayer in the whole of the Bible. What a daunting request! To ask the Lord to search deep within – into all the places that make up who I am - to see if there is any part of me that is divided against itself; that feels friction, angst, false, fake…incongruent. But this hard responsibility is what love requires.
“Love must be sincere…”
I think there are many humans who choose to not enter into this hard process of searching and developing this congruent living. There is a part of me that understands not wanting to do the hard work, because it is human nature to want to protect our ego from pain. Settling for shallow relationships may guard from the pain and work of meaningful connection; but it also forfeits the purpose of becoming more fully who God has called us to be. Roots do not grow in shallow soil.
Additionally, I think there are people who wannabe in deep, sincere relationships, but they don’t want to feel the pang of being sincere with themselves. They pretend, or “ride the fence” between being sincere and maintaining their own comfort. Some people believe they can achieve this quality of relating with others by pretending to have introspective lives. However, when rocks and hard places collide, their decisions and actions seem to waver. They may know all the “right” answers but can rarely continue to sustain the sincerity that deeper relationships require. A double-minded man is unstable in all he does (James 1:8) - including individual and relational growth.
Those who wish to enter into truly meaningful friendship must be willing to be sincere - truly themselves through and through. They must work to bring themselves together – all the scattered parts of who they are – into one congruent being. This hard work is empowered by a God who already knows us through and through, and came to earth to make us His own. Within His great love, we find stable ground to pursue this truest version of who He created us to be and the strength required to let go of the duplicity. No longer relationally shallow or playing the role of a wannabe, we become a people who hold to the truth that we must be sincere. This inner process paves the way to engage in friendships that can become spaces where the growth process is further worked out, muddled through, and sorted into a cohesive, congruent entity: yourself.
And that is, sincerely, a lovely thing.