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8/27/17blog post

when being genuine goes too far

LaVar Ball is the dad of one of the top NBA prospects, Los Angeles rookie Lonzo Ball. LaVar is as famous as his son, not for his athleticism but rather for his outrageous comments. 

Ball recently complained about female referees, demanding that one be removed from a game. Adidas, the company in charge of the tournament, immediately replaced the female referee with a male, but later admitted “it was the wrong decision.”

Ball may be either a genius in marketing or an offensive jerk. What’s interesting is the reaction of many who complimented Ball for being “genuine,” irrespective of whether they agreed with him.       

I hear this nonsense often about being “real” from teens in my office.  Saying whatever you think and feel isn’t being “real” but is rudeness masquerading as being authentic.

A teen recently got into trouble for telling a teacher that she was a boring instructor. He justified his disrespect by saying that he was only “being himself” rather than “acting phony.”  Why should he get in trouble for expressing what he really thought and felt? 

Here’s how I guide kids in my office.  

  1. It’s important to be genuine. For most people, life is made up of mindless habits rather than purposeful actions. It’s healthy to reflect on what you think and feel, and make certain that what you do is aligned with what you believe, not what is popular.  
  2. Authentic people behave the way they believe but are also mindful of when and how they share their thoughts with others. It’s fine for my client to feel that his teacher was boring, his foster dad was harsh, or that his caseworker never listened to his point of view.  However, while genuine people don’t compromise their core values, they are respectful and kind to others. How and when something is communicated is just as important as what is said.
  3. Being yourself means being your better self. Our real or genuine self may be kind and gentle at times, but evil and selfish on other occasions.  I would never tell anyone to “be authentic,” because no one is ever totally virtuous.  You shouldn’t say something just because you think or feel it.  Some may view this as phoniness.  I see this as striving to act on our loftiest aspirations, not our lowest impulses.
  4. Accept the consequences. Society improves because of the courage of individuals who are willing to act on their beliefs and deal with the consequences of those actions. Let’s admire those people for their valor, but not confuse them with the offensiveness of LaVar Ball.