Self-Editing and the Struggle for Authenticity

I’m a peer writing tutor at my university. Students will come to the writing center for feedback about papers, essays, and even the occasional creative writing piece. I love this job . . . every day at work is a new one with new challenges and individuals. I love people, I love words, and I love being able to help.

Sometimes, however, this impulse to edit creeps its way into the rest of my life. I am often tempted to look at others and their actions, and, in the same way that I would correct their grammar, I highlight their poor choices and suggest what changes they should make. This “life editing” is not new and not something that is unique to me. It is a daily struggle of which I am acutely aware.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I also self-edit. Like rereading my writing, I revisit the same painful or awkward scenes of my life over and over again, eventually deciding to hide them, deep within my memory, never letting them heal. While certain parts of me are open to everyone, being vulnerable when others need my vulnerability the most is always difficult. In my worst moments, I even have trouble being honest with myself, choosing to edit my own thoughts from reality into something more comfortable.

I think it’s a practice we all can recognize. Even people who aren’t editors are able to point out wrongdoing and offer suggestions on how to make it right. Yet, just because we are able to do so does not mean we should. The issue is this: people are not meant to be edited—at least, not by us. God is the ultimate storyteller, the one who writes the stories of all humankind. Because God is perfect, He doesn’t need an editor. Instead, He allows us to listen and share our stories about how, despite our imperfections, He loves us, redeems us, and refines us.

From memory, I can list at least five important stories that shaped my life that were told by and about other people I know. As I go through each day, I collect stories of my own. This little collection helps me to see God’s bigger story. Through it, I can look on the world with understanding and compassion. I understand the need to share my experiences so that, through them, God can shed light and bring healing.

From now on, I am taking a stand for authenticity. Dare to be authentic. Dare to live outside of your edited persona. In a world that treasures appearances, be bold enough to share your true self.


Sydney Berry is a student at Samford University. She is currently living abroad with missions in mind. Her three favorite things are coffee, books, and cats.


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