"Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” -Letter to Women, 2
Authenticity. It is something we admire in others, and yet, it can be so hard to model for ourselves. Sensitivity. It brings people closer together, but it can also be seen as a point of weakness. But, in this line by our late Holy Father, we are actually encouraged as women in our sensitivity and authenticity. Why?
We live in a culture which cultivates anything but a genuine showing of ourselves- of making ourselves truly known. Photo filters remove every flaw in our skin for that profile picture, social media bombards us with what everyone else is doing, and often, our newsfeed tempts us to think of what we lack.
It is not that these things are bad at all…In fact, there is an immense beauty of that we can do with social media and photography. But amidst this, we can see an abuse of such goods. The environment in which we live can convince us that everyone has their lives together and that we are meant for complete happiness in this life. It can convince us that we are lovable only when we are happy, self sufficient, and strong.
I currently am writing this blog post in Belize, in the heart of a village which has spoken the message of authenticity to my heart. For a few weeks, I have been teaching here on mission in a little village called Benque Viejo. The journey has been quite different than expected, as has been a walk on the way of authenticity for me.
Half my life, I dreamed of going on mission. I was inspired by Mother Teresa as a child, and wanted to help others in need. And the reality has been far from what I expected. I came to help people with my own “strength,” only to find that I am very weak. I have found that, while I thought my heart was open, it actually has been full of barriers; I have grasped onto many material possessions in order to try and find my identity in things other than God.
Amidst all this, something has struck me and brought down barriers in my heart. The people here are so genuine and open to receiving the other. They are direct and ask questions that get to the heart. And, many times since being here, I have witnessed a joyous smile, and a moment later heard about a tragedy from the same person. It has been through such people that I have encountered Christ in a tangible way.
Life is not “perfect,” and yet it still holds its joys. By sharing their stories, these people have shared their lives. They have opened their hearts and homes to a visitor like myself, making me feel more welcome than I have felt anywhere else. It seems as though the vulnerability of their lives has propelled them to be more open and welcoming to receiving the gift of the other.
When we think of the deepest outpouring of God's love for us, what comes to mind? The Cross. It is on the cross that Jesus was vulnerable. In such vulnerability, He was exposing himself to others in his weakness, making that a gift of love. He took a risk, knowing He could be rejected, and yet, still made a gift of Himself. It is in such an act of showing our true selves, in both joys and sorrows, that true love is born.
Authenticity. I have found that, yes, it is painful. It is hard to allow yourself to be seen and truly known. Doing so is taking a risk…It is taking a leap of faith that you might be rejected by those around you who do not fully embrace who you are. And yet, it is one of the most beautiful and attractive qualities one can possess. Authenticity - feeling both the joys and sorrows of life to the depths - enables one to embrace life to the fullest. It enables one to be loved as one truly is, and to give back in love to others.
Yes, our sensitivity as women can be seen as a burden in today’s society. And yet, the world needs us and this gift. The world needs the woman who feels things deeply and is there to listen to her best friend. It needs the mother who notices the joy her son finds in art, and encourages the unfolding of his talents. It needs the businesswoman who shares her feelings on how a new company change will affect the employees on a personal level. The gift of our sensitivity can change the world. It can be a gift that, as the Holy Father stated, “makes relationships more honest and authentic.”
By cultivating those authentic and real relationships around us, we can encourage others to see the person. We can encourage genuine love of others as they reveal their true selves, hoping to be seen and loved. And in that, we can love them and be with them with our compassionate hearts. Our sensitivity can encourage love in today’s world. So the real question remains, Where can you gift the world with your sensitivity and authenticity?