Everyone says that they want to have integrity and be their most authentic selves, but do we actually want that?
Garry Winogrand changed the landscape of photography in significant ways with his work, much of which he never even saw himself.
He shot from the hip, defining the “snapshot aesthetic” that was designed to capture people’s candid expressions. The streets were his studio; everyday people in mundane activities were his models. While Winogrand seemed driven by a need to catch the ephemeral spirit of humanity, he would die without being conscious of his work’s magnitude.
National Geographic discussed the strange, enormous and largely untouched legacy that the man left behind. “Winogrand, who died suddenly at age 56, left behind 2,500 rolls of film that had never been developed and 6,500 rolls of film that had been developed but never made into contact sheets. At 36 frames per roll, that’s well over a quarter of a million images that Winogrand made but never looked at.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s tribute explains, “The act of taking pictures was far more fulfilling to Winogrand than making prints or editing for books and exhibitions; he often allowed others to perform these tasks for him.”
Whether he was photographing three women sidling around an unconscious homeless man on the sidewalk or catching a couple flirting in a bar, Winogrand seemed to be hunting for the opposite of an ‘ideal’ portrait.
Like many of us, he was fascinated by the genuine.
Always Posing for Our Pictures
One of the most recognizable photos by Winogrand is a woman dancing with a man. The back of his head is all that is visible; her face is contorted in a laugh so viciously exaggerated that she looks like a dog about to lunge for his face. Her hand clutches his shoulder like a claw. The photo, the unstudied emotion of this moment, is both captivating and repulsive.
Unfortunately, searching for the genuine — a thing we instinctively desire because humanity was designed in Eden to be utterly open and honest with one another — will inevitably expose us to the demented reality of sinful people.
“God delights when truth reigns in our inmost being (Psalm 51:6),” noted Jon Bloom. “But I don’t always delight in the truth. I most certainly should, but honestly I don’t. Sometimes I feel about seeking the truth like I feel about seeking the dentist. The truth might (or perhaps I already know will) expose some decay….
“Well, if I’m wise, I should want that. But wisdom isn’t always the most persuasive voice in my head. Sometimes pride is. And my pride is anything but wise.
“When my pride is speaking to me, it encourages me to seek my selfish interests above God’s. More bluntly, my pride prefers a deceptive illusion of self-advancement or self-exaltation or self-protection to God’s exposing, humbling, but ultimately merciful and liberating truth — which is utter foolishness, because that’s preferring the destruction of my greatest joy over the pursuit of my greatest joy.”
We pose to present a certain image to the world. We smile or posture in ways that we hope will mask our actual mood or fears and yet, ironically or else in God’s good mercy, these same acts usually reflect our insecurities far faster than anything else.
Some people are always curating a certain image of themselves, who they want to be and who they want to be seen as. On the other side, others use their ‘true selves’ as a weapon against others. They’ll uncover their own secrets so that no one else can have the pleasure. They are their own worst critic so that other’s suggestions may be dismissed.
Both are methods of hiding. We’re concealing our vulnerabilities from one another.
How do we ever break free from the falseness without baring ourselves unnecessarily to a harshly critical world?
Forgetting What Christ Looks Like
In an odd way, terrible people seem to draw and repulse more than almost anyone else. They are, in a dreadful way, genuine. Individuals who want to indulge the worst parts of themselves without shame follow these kinds of leaders. The rest of us are often horrified by them, in part because we recognize something of ourselves in these criminals, a shadow of our own propensity toward evil in their terrible acts.
Out of fear and self-preservation, we condemn and mock them as harshly as we can; but the reality is that, without God, we’re no better.
“At the core,” Sophie McDonald wrote, “beyond the rising blood pressure, increased heart rate, and heightened awareness, fear tells us we need a Savior. Whether it’s a fear of failure, rejection, death, or the dark, fear sends a signal to our souls that we cannot be the center of the universe. There is more to life than us. Fear whispers of our brokenness and cries for security, for refuge, for something (Someone) bigger to protect us.
“Every fear can be traced back to Genesis 3, which tells us that fear is universal because sin is universal. The antidote to sin must be the antidote to fear.”
In a peculiar way, humanity’s reactions to our own worst individuals was rather similar to our reaction to Christ. He was the most genuine person the world has ever seen. The world’s worst tyrants and dictators have been secure in their megalomania and delusions of grandeur. Jesus had nothing to fear from the people around him because he already knew that he was perfectly secure in the affections of the one person who matters: God.
People were drawn to him as a result. Some followed him, hoping to become like him; others were hell-bent on proving that he was as false as they were.
A genuine person is captivating; their presence demands a response. Sadly, our first instinct is usually to make Jesus less than what and who he truly is, whether we’re his followers or not, because his authenticity reveals exactly how cheap our own disguises are.
If we want to live the same authentic life, we must constantly return to Christ’s portrait in the Bible. As the Bible points out, we’re prone to be forgetful. “If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23-24, ESV).
We must look at Christ and look again and then look once more so we don’t forget our only example of a truly holy and authentic life.
Growing Through the Struggle
Becoming discouraged with our false selves and seemingly endless fears is easy. Living in unaffected security seems like an endless battle.
David Wilkerson noted, “For multitudes of Christians…. Years after their conversion, they still battle a powerful, perplexing temptation. It brings guilt and reproach into their life. If it were to be exposed, it could ruin them.
“Over time they grow discouraged. Their soul cries out, ‘How long, Lord? When will this chain ever be broken?’ The devil comes to them, saying, ‘You'll never make it. Your sin is in you for good! You've struggled with this thing for years now. You know there's no way you could grow spiritually in this kind of condition.’
“Rest assured, if you have the fear of God in your heart, you're going to emerge from the storm much stronger. You see, when you're doing battle with the enemy, you're exercising and calling forth all the graces and powers of God. Even though you may feel weakened, those graces and powers are strengthening you. For one, you're becoming more urgent in your praying. Second, you're being stripped of all pride.
“Take heart, friend. I've got good news for you. You're growing in the midst of your struggle. In fact, you may be growing by leaps and bounds because of your struggle.”
Our fight to have integrity in God and each other will be life-long but worth every staggering footstep forward.
Then, when the camera clicks, it will capture a glimpse of Christ in us.