Risky business


So, I took the leap last summer and applied to my former college for information on taking Distance Education. I was interested in their “Bachelor of Theology Completion Program”. I had graduated with a three-year diploma many years ago and I always felt as though I hadn’t completed something. For someone like me, that’s a nagging itch that you can’t scratch. After conversations with the School’s Academic department, various phone calls, emails and paperwork, I was given the official welcome to start the 2019 Fall Semester in their Distance Education Program.


The official paper!

Those first weeks in September, proved to be my, “dizzying glance over an unstable cliff’s edge”. It was a fast education in the inadequacies of a “nearly Senior-aged” student, trying to travel the road map of late reentry into academia. I struggled with video clips on plagiarism, researching sites, updating to the more recent formats of “MLA”, comparing costs of text books vs. e-books, the “drop boxes”, “posting to the discussion board”, “mini-quizzes”, “this is the home site, that’s the student site”, “this is the online site” and “your results have been posted” memos. I hadn’t even begun my course!

Once the course did start, I of course, with my somewhat dubious scholastic record, wanted to improve upon my personal academic history. So, I did what anyone in my more advanced age and decades-long experience would do…

I panicked!woman-character-clipart-free

I called my youngest brother and sister-in-law for help (teachers), my niece and her husband (who graduated from the same college, only three years earlier). I connected to a librarian friend, my chiropractor, even my young nephew (16 years old) to explain to me the new apps for formatting bibliographies. I appealed to anyone who was willing to give  me advice and insight into organizing (all in the correct MLA format of course), the myriad of information and scholastic rules, I was sorting through.

In the end, I did well (Whew!), I enjoyed the course study thoroughly, and looked forward to my next stop along the adventure toward my degree. So, when I started into the new Winter Semester, I felt a little more (Ahem) experienced and confident, ready to tackle my new challenges in reading, writing, and studying.

I wasn’t prepared for this one though. As familiar, well-documented and personal as it is, this course is proving to be more than just text book, instruction and information.

This one hits a little too close to home.

How bad can it be, really? The class is called “Personal Leadership Development“. Well, I’ve been a leader for more than 4 decades. I shouldn’t struggle with this. I’ve got experience, education, training, had great mentors – I should be comfortable.

But I’m not.

The assignments call us to “dig deeper” into “being authentic” in our personal, professional and leadership life.  In that way, those we lead and others we come in contact with, can experience freedom to be authentic as well. As well, this course challenges us to share aspects of our emotional, spiritual and leadership growth, personality traits, our calling, accomplishments, spiritual gifts and relationship health. So, why is that a problem?

We have to talk about ourselves. A lot. No surface stuff. Dig deep. REAL deep. Like the people of Newfoundland “digging-out-from-the-“Snowmageddon” last winter, deep.

The issue is: depending on your particular personality type, and other areas of influence in your life, this scholastic exercise can play out in various ways:

It can be a great “selfie-culture” moment, smiling as you capture the fun and excitement of a new friendship forged, revealing aspects of your life with abandon without hesitation, posting it to social media sites with flare and style, shining a bright spotlight on your inner workings and self-discovery;

OR, it can be an exciting front row seat in the exploration of “risky living” within your professional and personal relationships, observing, applying principles, developing strategies, while manifesting the ways you grew into the person you are today;

OR, it can be as fearful as staring at the opening of “the fiery furnace” in front of you while, behind you, is a drooling-at-the-mouth, tapping of the feet, low-throat growling, sniffing of the air, pack of highly motivated, hungry, grizzly bears, ready for their next meal.

I lean towards the last scenario. Greatly. (more of that idea explained in my next post).

How about you? Which one of those scenarios do you gravitate towards? Do you struggle to be “authentic” so others can be the same? Are you a “sharer” or a “cards close-to-the-chest” type?  Is it easy for you, or do your internal boundaries keep you from revealing the depth of who you truly are (professionally, personally, spiritually)?

The terms that my classmates and I used in our discussion posts defining “authenticity” were: “Vulnerable”, “transparent”, “honest”, “genuine” “legitimate” “Truthful” “Bona Fide”. Our discussion with the Professor drew analogies from the life of Jesus Christ:

The Samaritan Woman: (Jesus knew her, spoke truth into her attempts to hide elements of her life, challenged her); the confrontations with the Religious leaders (called them out on their hypocrisy, but revealed His life to the ones who would ultimately lead Him to his death); the relationships with His Followers (living, eating, walking, demonstrating His love-based leadership); His teachings – show us a life lived in true authenticity.

What does “authenticity” look like to you?