Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On Being Authentic

One of the highest values of our culture is that of authenticity. I am convinced this is a worthwhile pursuit, as it is good to avoid pretending to be something we are not. But I also believe that, like many good things, it can be taken to an extreme. Like any requirement, it can become a burden when we end up asking ourselves if we have really achieved true authenticity, resulting in our feeling guilty when we find out we fall short. But the big problem is, to be truly authentic, we need to value something else beside authenticity.   Authenticity for authenticity's sake is like art for art's sake. The original goal of art was to portray something other than itself. Whether it was God or country or a romantic relationship or even just a good story. But art for art's sake can end up making art meaningless. In the same way, authenticity needs to be about something. Authenticity for the sake of authenticity can also become meaningless.

The problem is, to be ourselves we need to know who we are. And try as we might, we will not find the answer within us. The idea that we are in ourselves a ready-made package that simply needs to be unwrapped is simplistic. Even less does the idea that we can somehow define ourselves make sense. We can wander around forever inside our own psyches and never find in that subjective realm any solid tie point to base an identity on. We can only be who are when we find something outside ourselves to define ourselves by. From a Christian perspective, this is God and His truth. And I am convinced it is that truth which allows us to face the real world. It says, we are sinners, but if we put our faith in Christ we are forgiven and begin the process of being changed into the people God means us to be. This means we can be honest with ourselves. We do not have to plaster over all our deficiencies to convince ourselves we are basically good. Nor are we left with the idea that life is a hopeless muddle and is fundamentally absurd, Rather, our personality and identity is not something we create, but is sourced in Someone bigger than us. And authenticity comes from our understanding ourselves in terms of Him and becoming over time more of the people He wants us to be. It is not something we have to drum up, much less something we need to beat ourselves up for not attaining. But it is a byproduct of seeing ourselves as we really are in the light of the only One whose opinion of us really matters.    


  1. "to be ourselves we need to know who we are"

    Well said Mike. If one does not know who they are, there are people who will gladly tell them who they are.