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Safety or Authenticity: Is it good to self censor? (Part II)

October 5, 2008

Whoa! Looks like I hit a chord with this post on authenticity. The number of hits tripled and the length (and number) of comments is cool! I don’t have a lot of time tonight, but lets see if I can provide a little feedback for now…

@greghughes, I already replied to you via Twitter, but there were a couple of things that resonated through your comment. The first is the idea of doing “the next right thing.” That was a good reminder for me. The problem is that what appears right to me, may not always seem right to my employer, my stakeholders, my constituents, or my friends and family. My filters are weak – which is why I need a solid moral compass to keep me out of trouble, on my own, I’m not smart enough to figure this stuff out.

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The other thing that resonated was that being right doesn’t mean being correct. My Dad drilled that into my head when he was teaching me to drive. His words, “you can have the right away, but you don’t want to be dead right.” This is the real issue I’m struggling with. If I were totally freelancing, I could handle building my own brand and establishing a unique identity. But, since I am an employee of an organization with some longstanding traditions and expectations, I have to be careful that I’m not too out of the box for them.

To most people, growth and change need to take place, but only if it’s NIMBY!

@blogan, I really appreciate your comments. Since I kind of know you, and I know you understand the traditions and constraints in which I operate, I feel like you’re really grasping the gist of my angst. (not that others aren’t – heh!)

I agree that we don’t have to tweet and blog every mundane act of our lives. This is the primary complain of those who don’t get FaceBook and Twitter, et al. However, as one who has internalized most of my emotions most of my life, it is nice to have an outlet to vent frustrations now and then.

My wife, who is very verbal, demonstrative, and expressive lets no emotion/feeling go unexpressed (more or less). Sighs, outbursts, etc are a regular occurrence with her. In fact she speaks words and sometimes I never know whether shes talking to me, the kids, the dog, or herself. I, on the otherhand, am challenged in this arena. I don’t vent, I just explode.

So, for me, Twitter is an experiment in venting – which is giving me courage to learn how to vent, verbally, and appropriately. Believe me, there is still much self-censorship taking place.

It’s the whole inauthentic thing that I’m trying to address. From my research, and from personal experience, it is the lack of authenticity that is keeping people away from church in droves. In addition, the lack of transparency is keeping churches in the nursing home business. We bring people in and care for them, but we aren’t providing a good pathway for recovery – like a hospital would.

So, as you said, I hope to lead the way by being the example. Some aren’t going to like this though. It may come across as pious, it may come across as TMI – either way, I have to be myself.

My desire for authenticity is not an ego thing. And I’m not so sure that people do care, that much, about the mundane in my life. However, like you suggested, the more I share, the more people feel trusting enough to share with me.

All my life I’ve been accused of being arrogant and aloof. That actually wasn’t what was going on in my soul. Instead, I had this great fear that I would be discovered to be a fool. I took to heart the phrase that says: “better to remain silent and be thought a fool, rather than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

As I’ve matured, gained confidence, and recovered some of my sanity and serenity, I’ve realized that I’m not a fool and that the more transparent I am, the more I’m trusted. So, for me, it is about paving the way to better relationships.

You mentioned the fighting-with-your-wife-putting-on-a-smile scenario. I do believe there are times when we need to buck up and not vomit our stuff all over other people. They don’t want to hear it, and you don’t want them to know.

However, who of us hasn’t sat in a meeting/class and leaned over to someone sitting next to us to ask “what in the world is this guy is talking about?” When I tweet that a meeting is mundane, or boring, I’d be willing to say it out loud to a trusted friend, or IM it to my brother across the room (which we used to do all the time).

Is this right? No. Should I stop? Yep. Does it set a good example? Absolutely not. Am I human? Sigh, yes I am.

To answer your question regarding would I be willing to share in person what I share online, the answer is yes – without a doubt. but sometimes we have to wait for the right opportunity. Whether I do it online, with my wife, or a close confident – some of talking it out is practicing how I want to say it when the opportunity comes.

One only gets one opportunity to have the crucial conversation. I want to make sure I don’t wound, maim, or repel the other party.

Is there some self-discovery there? Yes. I’ve been doing that through journaling for years and it helps me better communicate who I am when I write it out. But there is something about a journal post stored on my HDD, or locked into G-Docs that seems so, so void. Putting it out there for feedback is truly a learning experience for me.

I can take the heat, but I’m not sure ALL my readers can handle the transparent and naked me. If the heat were merely social, I’d be fine. However, there have been not-so-veiled threats towards my employment status, my success, and other areas that could greatly affect my family.

With my family at risk, I suddenly get more careful.

@charlene, (If that’s your real name? 😉 ) Thanks for the feedback, both here and on Brent’s blog ( Maybe the answer, for me, is a more carefully concealed “super-seekrit” blog. I thought my Leadership Musings blog was hidden, but somehow, I had links to it in my main blogroll and in other locations. Stoooopid, I know, I blew it.

I was writing as if I were writing to myself, and in the meantime, some of the people mentioned had already subscribed to the feed. Sheesh.

I agree with you about balance. In fact, I see that balance point every time I swing past it. But to me, that’s the learning curve. If those who lurk my posts could allow me the tolerance of friendship, and a margin of error, they might learn stuff that is beyond what I can reveal in the meat space. But, I know that is hard.

As you said, the Millennials seem to have an easier time with this. I too am on the fringe of the BabyBoomer/GenX division. I related more to GenX before I had kids, but now that I’m approaching 1/2 a century, with a wife and kids, I seem to be less GenX.

But, when I look at others on the other end of the spectrum, clearly post WWII babes, I know that I have little in common with their values and visions. Indeed, many of the GenXers I associate with, tend to be more conservative and less adventuresome.

I am a quintessential early adopter and adventure is one of my core values (except when it comes to food ). Relationships are also a core value of mine – this was a bit of a surprise when I discovered that, but it’s true – even though I am an introvert.

Thanks for your thoughts (everyone) – I can’t tell you how affirming, thought-provoking, and enlightening this conversation has been for me!

Here are two more links dealing with the same issue:

One Comment


  1. Self Censorship Online at blogan

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