Will the real me please step forward

My dear brother, a super-talented hair stylist was recently telling me about some of his more entertaining clients, including one who kept using the well-renowned Bristolian phrase, “fair play” in response to pretty much everything he told them. Fair play, to ‘em.

It got us wondering how this little turn of phrase reflects the Bristolian culture. We couldn’t decide whether ‘fair play’ is simply a generous spiritedness celebrating freedom of expression, or if it’s potentially a complete disregard for whatever the other person has just said.

Let me explain this second theory by way of a possible conversation:

Steve: “Ere, Dave, what d’you you do at the weekend, mate?”

Dave: “Oh, me and me missus dressed up like rampaging Vikings and rode a cup-la badgers down Whiteladies Road.”

Steve: “Oh fair play, mate.”

What do our accents and the way we talk say about us? Some psychologists would argue that a person’s accent has a greater impression on people than the way they look; that our accents reveal more about us as people than our visual appearance.

Why am I saying all this?

Like many others at this time of year, I’ve been reading the Passion stories in the Bible and this year have been really struck by the behaviour of Peter.

He was in the courtyard outside where Jesus was facing his so-called trial by the High Priest, and this where he denied that he knew Jesus. When he was asked, he said, “I don’t know the man” -as if he was saying, “I’ve never heard of him, I don’t know what you’re on about”. He actually seems to have gotten quite narky about it!

But despite what he was saying, the way he said it – his accent – was noticed. The bystanders said, “your accent gives you away.” It’s as if they were saying, “Oh come on, mate, d’you really expect us to believe you’ve never heard of Jesus, you’re from the same neighbourhood!”

Despite Peter’s ‘best’ efforts, he gave himself away.

People are funny like that. We sometimes try (with a quite strenuous effort) to give an impression about ourselves to others to avoid ‘giving ourselves away’. We fear being judged, misunderstood or rejected. Maybe we’re struggling with something and assume everyone else has ‘got it sorted’ so we keep shtum and pretend while inside we feel discouraged or alone.

In his book, ‘Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?’ John Joseph Powell explains that our answer to the question, could quite simply be, “I am afraid you might not like who I am . . . and I’m all I’ve got.”

I don’t know about you, but if ‘I’m all I’ve got’, then surely I owe it to myself and others to pursue being as real and authentic a person as possible. And for me, that has only come about by discovering who I am in Jesus. Despite all the crap and abuse and negative narrative I’ve lived through, I’m compelled to press on into discovering the beautiful truth that it’s God’s view about me that reflects the real me. That is my ‘authentic self’.

Christianity Today magazine summed this up perfectly by saying that authenticity is: “transparency and admission of failure…. the rejection of pretence and hypocrisy. It’s truth-telling about all areas of life. …. Christians serve a God who is always truthful. Never lies. Never deceives…..For Christians, our true self is found in Christ, and we are on a pilgrimage to become more like him.”

zeph 3-17

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