Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Psalm 51:6
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:7-10
Authenticity has achieved buzzword status in our culture. Everywhere we look people are clamoring for relationships, businesses and organizations that are the “real deal.” From the boardroom to the dining room, the drive to be authentic has seemingly risen to one of our top desires. This push for authenticity has even become a trendy part of church vernacular. We search for churches that allow us to “come as we are.”
Yet, like many words that get thrown around so casually, the true meaning of authenticity has been distorted and misused over the years. A co-worker vents their frustration and when they notice how their words hit, they mutter, “What you see is what you get.” A friend makes an insensitive comment and when we push back, they say, “What? I’m just being authentic and real.” When this happens, I have to resist the urge to do my best Inigo Montoya impression from Princess Bride and shooting back, "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."
In those moments of “just keeping it real" or “being an open book,” most of us think we are being authentic. We might be transparent, but we are far from authentic. We use authenticity as an escape clause for a bad attitude, sin patterns or areas of our heart that we don’t want to address. If we behave this way we are settling for a cheap substitute of authenticity. Authenticity never excuses sin.
The real work of authenticity isn’t just knowing ourselves, but understanding the image we are reflecting. Authenticity requires a standard for truth. It always pushes us to ruthlessly pursue truth - not only about ourselves, but our creator. Authenticity requires being true to who we are. As believers, who we are is defined by Christ. We are a new creation. We are His masterpiece. We are salt and light. We are Christ’s ambassadors. This is the image we are called to reflect.
Our only hope of accurately reflecting God in everything we do is understanding that our life is found in Him. If we want to pursue truth, it begins by pursuing Jesus. The value of authenticity reminds us that all our pursuits and efforts must ultimately be about reflecting Christ’s heart to those around us. But, what do we do with our imperfections, shortcomings and failures?
The pressure we feel about having to reflect the love of Christ in everything we do can push one towards inauthenticity. Without extending grace and understanding that authenticity entails a process, we can very easily fall for the “fake it till you make it” trap. Authenticity isn’t about being perfect, but where we find our identity and the image we are reflecting. Faith is a heart set that allows our experience to catch up with reality.
Pursuing authenticity is critical in our relationships, both with God as well as those around us. Valuing authenticity is always others focused. Trust can be shaken simply by suspicion. Distrust only requires a question mark. Living authentically in community allows us to share our burdens as well as help each other walk with God. Authentic people are individuals who always remain a student of themselves and others. They value wisdom and insight. They are willing to expose their innermost being to God’s Word and let His truth shape their heart. Authenticity doesn’t dwell on the past or remain stuck in the present. Instead it is focused on the person we are becoming and being an individual who lives out their values.
- Where are you resistant to allow God’s truth to penetrate your innermost being? If authenticity requires honesty, why does this place of your heart remain hidden and unaddressed?
God, help me to reflect Your heart in everything I do. May I stay true to my values. Rather than buckle under the pressure of perfection, allow me to see that authenticity involves a process. Open my eyes to the places where I am using authenticity as an excuse to remain the same and not look closely at my behavior and words. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.