Two weeks in a row I have had someone comment to me that I am a genuine person. Both times, I was crying. When we think about someone being authentic, being themselves, being genuine, what do we mean? Why can we often only see that in moments of vulnerability? And why is it that others see genuine aspects of us that we can’t see in ourselves?
Genuine is an interesting adjective to define. Formal definitions include:
Actually having the claimed or attributed qualities or character
Sincerely and honestly felt or experienced
Free from hypocrisy or pretense; sincere
Authentic, true, open, honest, forthright
It comes from the Latin word genuinus meaning “native, natural.” The root word from genuinus is genu, meaning “knee.” The connection comes from the ancient practice of fathers placing newborns on their knees as a way of claiming paternity. Thus, a child placed on a father’s knee is said to be natural or true born.
Just yesterday, I participated in an exercise of giving recognition. On a single index card, we wrote our names followed by the sentence “you are an inspiration because…” The cards were then passed out randomly for comments and supporting evidence to be written. After seven weeks of class, there was a lot to say, but some of the results were surprising.
One participant was told that his stories of parenting his kids were an inspiration to someone who just discovered they are expecting. Several people found out that their smiles radiated genuine warmth and happiness to others. What others see in us as genuine, true, and inspiring, we may not see in ourselves.
There’s a bit of an irony when you think about trying to be genuine. Everyone tries, but it’s often the little unintentional things that show our true genuineness. Thus, it seems the best way to be genuine and sincere is to stop trying altogether and just be ourselves.