Can we forgive each other for being insecure?

by | Mar 16, 2006

Recently I spent time with a woman I’ve known for seven or eight years. I know her to be extremely competent, warm, even loving. Yet I’d often experience a chill sense of inauthenticity in her, and my automatic response was to feel subtely threatened. Inauthenticity, I reasoned unreasonably, must signal the intent to manipulate.
Today I realized why I would sometimes pick up about this woman the scent of the inauthentic, and it gives the lie to my presumption about her motives. Like me, sometimes she’s insecure.
Who knew? I’ve spent a good deal of my life hiding my insecurities, and some of my proudest moments have occurrred when I believed I’d succeeded. It’s no accident, I think, that most (all?) of my lowest moments have also occurred when I’m hiding insecurity. For me, there is no lower feeling than awareness of my own inauthenticity, and nothing calls up the shrill edge of inauthenticity more effectively than repressing my fears.
I’ve known for years that what I fear and loathe in myself I find unforgivable in others, especially if they seem oblivious to their error. (“How can they be that way and not feel awful? I suffer when I’m…”) I’ve also known for years that insecurity often manifests as unwonted cheer or enthusiasm or pride. I know I hate it when I’m false, and I know I’ve often scented falsehood without having a clue why. That’s how successful I can be at self deception. I’ve even had moments of compassion toward my inauthentic self (now there’s an oxymoron). But only today has it occurred to me to imagine that the perception of inauthenticity in someone else would move me to compassion.
Sure, I’ve had compassionate responses to wounded braggarts and frightened joy-junkies. (That last one’s a bugger, though. I really dislike joy-junkies. Which raises a whole slew of questions about me. Oh well.) But until today I don’t believe I’d really made the connection. What we call falseness in another can only always be that other’s attempt, however misguided, to be safe. The more I recoil from or judge alleged inauthenticity, the more endangered the other must feel. (That’s certainly true for me. I practically dissolve when I feel judged for being less than 100% authentic because I know the judgment is correct and I also — in the moment — don’t know how else I could have taken care of myself.)
So I’m wondering if just maybe the next time I get a whiff of inauthenticity I might be moved to forgive myself and my fellow for the error of fear. I hope so.