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What Does It Mean To Be Real?

My glückpilz (lucky mushroom/ good luck charm) from Germany

What does it mean to be real?

A lifestyle Instagrammer might decide to take a break from all her normal photos to share something that is “real”.
It lacks filters or artistic arrangement in the trade of something “less” pretty. Even if this “real” post exaggerates the dirt with humor, we applaud the woman for her bravery in being real.

Someone might make a Facebook post and say, “You might not know this, but I’m actually NOT doing well.”
Even if she makes these posts on a regular basis, we admire her willingness to be real.

More than we admire the person who is active in politics, society, economics, theology, philosophy, or other real-world problems.

I’ve heard people complaining that social media is depressing because it’s full of fake people posting about a life that’s unattainable and unrealistic; as if someone’s artistic or encouraging words or photos automatically must cause dissatisfaction in our own lives.

As if it’s all right to be envious this one time because obviously, those people aren’t being real if all they share are GOOD things …

I've always loved Thor, but in Endgame Thor loses his motivation to be valiant and has become a fat, lazy bum that spends his time sprawled out in front of a tv screen.
We LAUGH, saying he’s finally real and relatable.
As if his desire to be his BEST before was unreal!?
As if finding depression means he’s finally crossed the line into becoming human?
(Let’s ignore the fact he’s still a god).

I’ve heard people saying, “I like people with colorful language better than those that don’t cuss. Because they ARE real.”

So, I ask again, what does it mean to be real?

Is every artistic picture on Instagram fake?
Are “messy hair days” the only real days?

Is every “I’m loving life” Facebook post untrue?

Does everyone have to be posting about depression and not being able to handle “it“ to be taken seriously?

What is real?
“To be honest,” many say.

But can’t I be honestly happy? Or only depressed.
Can’t I be honest without every other word being the f-word?

I can be honestly kind.
I can be honestly a jerk.
I can be honestly confident
I can be honestly insecure.
I can be honestly lazy.
I can be honestly whatever I want to be, good or bad.

Is honesty really the standard by which we determine who we are?

Some say vulnerability is the key to being real.

Must I always be a sobbing mess of emotions, dumping my troubles all over the internet or to every person in order to be real?

Must I always have troubles to be vulnerable about?

Am I not allowed to be in a good place?

And even if I do have troubles … is it truly wise for me to be open and honest about them to EVERYONE, or in every post I write?

Is it not acceptable to work through those troubles with those whom I trust? To sometimes forget my troubles by laughing over nonsense without being told I’m hiding behind a facade?

Can I not grow and get over those troubles?

Does growth make me inhuman, unreal?

Yes, I understand that no human is perfect. And that’s what all this ”be real” stuff is about.

But … just because I’m not perfect, that doesn’t mean I have to LOVE imperfections in others. I don’t need to identify with my own imperfections. In fact, we are told to be perfect.

Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Am I less real for becoming more like God?

“But, it’s about being relatable.”

Hey, I love a good piece of fiction I can relate to. But JUST because I relate to something doesn’t mean that something is now justified.

Relatability doesn’t equate justification.

One of the reasons I disliked Thor in the last Avengers is because he succumbed to the bad sort of what’s real. People were like, “Yes! This is real! I so relate! This is what depression does to you!”

But … depression isn’t something to laugh at. Depression isn’t something that’s good. I’m not saying don’t share about it … SHARE about depression and get HELP, or INSPIRE others to find hope.
But don’t turn it into a joke, and don’t be like, “It’s no big deal because it’s real. Let’s all of us wallow together, and let’s forget about being purposeful humans. Because it’s more real to be disgusting than valiant.”

Again, what does it mean to be real?

You can be a truly flippant person who pretends to be serious. Flippancy isn’t fake, it’s who you truly are.
You can be a serious person who enjoys occasional flippant conversations. Seriousness isn’t fake.
You can be a real evil person. Evil people are very real.
You can be a real unselfish person. Yes, these people exist.

You can be real in small talk; you can be real in debates.

Just because it’s REAL or HONEST doesn’t mean it’s something you ought to aspire to be.

Real doesn’t mean best.

Your laughter can be just as real as your tears, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Your brain can be as real as your heart … don’t think you have to become more real by following your heart when your brain screams, “NO! You know this isn’t good.”

You ARE real.
Whatever it is that you do, that you don’t do, that you think, that you don’t think; that is who you are.

Now, dishonesty comes when you pretend to be something that you aren’t, whether you pretend good or bad.

When you pretend to be anxious, you are fake.
When you pretend to never have a worry and act like you’re better than everyone else, you are fake.
When you pretend that your life is the standard, you are fake.
When you use swear words to impress, that’s not real.
When you try to be real by doing something wrong or kind.
When you pretend to serve God, but you serve the expectations and approval of others.

When you pretend anything, good or bad, you are not real.

You can pretend to be vulnerable.
Your tears can be fake.

So what does it mean to be real?
I think that’s for you to choose. Be the real you want to be. Choose wisely.

For me, this means sharing laughter, and less, not more, tears.
For me, this is about discovering what's beautiful, not finding humor in what is disgusting.

For me, to be real is to be human.
And to be human is to be whole.
And to be whole is to not be broken.

Circumstances, negative people, and Hollywood may try to tell me to lighten up and be “less perfect”. But you know what? I don’t want to be that sort of real.

What kind of real are you striving after?


  1. I've been thinking about this same thing recently, Keturah. What is "real"? Similar to this I've heard people recently talking about making each day "count." They ask "how do you make each day count?" But I wonder, at what point does a day "count"? And who decides? Someone might look at one of my days and think it didn't count because I didn't accomplish much...but I think every day is a gift. Doesn't mean I want to waste it or anything, but being focused on making it count just makes it harder to find satisfaction in the day. Same with being "real" online.

    1. I do believe in making every day count, but I love what you say about it! Yes, I think you're spot on. Most people wouldn't know that satisfaction can be found in the small things, and those are the days that count greatest! I do something called calendar journaling to help see each day as special and set apart and worthy of life. And yet you're right when you say we can't focus on it too much.

  2. As someone with mental health issues I didn't love how Thor's depression (a genuine mental illness) was a joke...but, EVERYTHING in Thor's movies have always been a joke and hey, I still love Thor and Endgame.

    1. I love Thor, but I feel the humor is done better in Guardians of the Galaxy ;)

  3. "To be real is to be human. And to be human is to be whole." YES. Yes to this whole post, but there's something about those two sentences in particular that sum it up so beautifully. Isn't "whole" just the most beautiful word? I love how it's from the same root as "holiness." Reality is good, because God made it; whatever is bad is actually just a corruption of the good, and therefore LESS real. Such a good post, Keturah.

    1. I'm so GLAD you understood those lines. It bothers me how people (myself included) speak of being human as if it's inferior and unable to be something more. Humanity is a beautiful, wonderful creation of God's. To be whole is holy, what a thought? I think this is what I actually needed today, as I'm navigating some rough waters of growth. This is reality, in it's harsh wildness. Oh, but what a gift!

  4. I want to hug this post, that's how much I love it.
    It's so true, everything you said.
    (Also, I don't somehow owe it to the public to show them every last struggle I go through??! I'm not somehow being deceptive if I don't talk about all my failures and struggles?!? You DON'T HAVE to be "vulnerable" ALL THE TIME. It's okay to be private about stuff. It's probably even good to be private about stuff. You can't have beauty without authenticity, but that doesn't mean it's the authenticity that's the end goal. You can have authenticity without beauty, but what's the point of that? The end goal is beauty. None of which, of course, is to say that people being vulnerable isn't sometimes a huge blessing to other people struggling with similar stuff. Just that you don't have to be a mess in public. You really don't.)
    Someone (I don't know if you know her, the Story Sponge) left me an amazing comment semi-recently that kind of relates. It had to do with people demanding realism in stories, in the form of morally grey characters. And she pointed out that what on earth are you saying? People are more real if they do more bad things?? Bad things are more real than good things?? It doesn't make sense. Real isn't the end goal; goodness and beauty are. And they aren't somehow less real than badness and ugliness. In fact, they're more real.

    1. Ahhhh, I love how you say goodness and beauty are MORE real. These days I've been such a mess, even in public, and I've been trying to step out of that and just breathe and remember what it is I want and who I am. It means letting the tears have their time, but that they AREN'T what define me and my path. I must pull those thistles and plant flowers, so that joy may abound most.


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