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On Being Authentic Part 2

I’ve recently been everywhere but here (home that is). Summer is just like that, I guess. Anyway, I continue to get comments and e-mails concerning my blog about authenticity a few months ago. There were some GREAT comments. I’m glad the subject struck a cord with so many of you. My hunch is that all of us long for true authenticity, if not in a large group, at least we long to be in relationship with a few people with whom we can be authentic.

It seems to me that our inauthenticity is breed out of fear. Fear that the real ‘me’ won’t be acceptable or loved or valued. We tell ourselves, “If I can be the smart one, the rich one, the funny one, the pretty one, the educated one, the well-dressed one, the iconoclast, the weirdo, or whatever else I choose to be then if people reject me then they are not really rejecting me, they’re rejecting the caricature that I project to the world.” I suppose that posture is insulating; it protects us. Here’s the problem though: We can get lost in that caricature and discover that we don’t or never knew ourselves, and/or we find out that we are standing alone in a crowd, which is to say, that no one knows us. I think that would be a terribly lonely feeling–standing alone in a crowd. Maybe this posture insulates us a little too much?

So what can we do to cure our leaning toward inauthenticity?

First, I think we need to discover that we are children of God. That’s all we are and all we will ever need to be! All of who we are is wrapped up in God. Only in identifying ourselves as children of God will we be able to let go of life’s comparison game and escape arrogance and self-deprecation. We have no other value outside being a child of God, which makes us eternally valuable. It also makes our neighbor–in the sense that Jesus uses the word “neighbor”,–eternally valuable as well. How we treat that “neighbor” reflects how we feel about the eternal value God has placed in us. We can’t live as children of God and treat ourselves or others the same.

Second, allow people who don’t like you to not like you. Trust me, a lot of people don’t like me. I’m okay with it! Really. I have decided not to turn my core identity off and on depending on who is in the room. That’s not to say we should be brash or abrasive, but rather it is to allow ourselves the freedom of not bowing to everyone’s perceptions and opinions (think of what that might do for politicians alone). I remember what former basketball-player, Charles Barkley, said to younger player once. Barkley told him not to worry about the crowds, the fans, and the media because “those people don’t love you.” How true that is. Many people spend much of their lives dancing for the applause of a bunch of people who don’t and won’t ever love them. Doesn’t it make more sense to live your life performing for the One who does?

Third, we all need a lot more time alone, listening to our deepest desires in quiet. Life is just too loud and too busy! In the quiet, God begins to speak to us, raise up and heal our deepest wounds and tell us who we really are. If you want to know who you really are, spend a few days in the quiet with God and dare ask him to tell you why He made you.

I suspect, if all of us spent the next year just asking God, “Who am I?” then many of our false fronts and inauthenticity might fall away. What do you think?

  • CL

    I think you are definitely on to something in this post Sean. I think to one of your points self value is a huge part of all of this. I have learned that I have value to Jesus and for me that is what matters the most. If I didn’t he wouldn’t have gone to the cross. When we begin to look at it that way, then trying dance around like a ballerina to the tune of what everyone thinks about me would seemingly come to a halt. But do I seek and find my value there, sometimes, but definitley not always. Which for me places this thought in a round which chases itself. So another question is when will I learn to be content to find my value in Jesus. Great post!

  • daniel greeson

    it goes back to the garden of Eden. the shame and guilt that hits Adam and Eve after they take the fruit. They hide themselves and clothe themselves.

    we are always looking for the embrace of God in our lives but because we have it missing we try to have others embrace us through praise, “acceptance”, laughter, etc.

    We need to reframe ourselves in the image of Christ, restoring the image that was shatter in Genesis 3 (recent sermon i preached but hey ya know..)

    good thoughts sean.

  • Brendo

    Sean,

    –Social setting: Invitation to a dinner party–

    I don’t typically eat meat, but I’m not a vegetarian. This causes (other people) a great deal of consternation. Vegetarianism is bad enough, but being a non-strict vegetarian can be downright insulting. I’m not sure what it is, but people seem to demand a sort of implicitly-agreed-upon compliance or consistency (commonly called “the social contract”). It helps them to create menus for dinner parties and feel like they know their place in the world. That’s why I’m not sure authenticity and individuality are as entangled (necessarily) as you suggest.

    I think, especially in the “West”, we battle with individuality vs. community/society. Our ego is weighed against the power of the super-ego ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego,_Superego_and_Id – I didn’t know I was such a Freudian adherent until I looked it up). It’s not disingenuous for me to claim to be a vegetarian in order to help my host feel more comfortable, or to help someone pigeon-hole me, it’s a public service. Glossing over one’s more peculiar and specific eccentricities often saves everyone a tedious and uncomfortable unneeded conversation. I remain within myself “authentic”, but as with all social interaction I assume a mask. In this case the mask of “lefty vegetarian freak who is probably anemic”. As lame as that mask is, it’s more important that I control my own diet so that I don’t assume the more inherited physical mask; “slowly dieing of heart disease associated with a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol”. The authenticity is projected implicitly ( I’m not terminally succumbing to social pressures to eat the meat), but inauthenticity is being used explicitly to smooth over the social interactions.

    There must be a carrying capacity within any given social group for individual authenticity. To stretch beyond that creates a friction that tend to exclude the individual from the group (e.g. It’s easy to accept one who claims to be a vegetarian and a Christian. whereas making the claim to be a vegetarian who eats beef, or a Christian who does not believe in Christ is objectionable to both groups).

    So, in answering “authenticity” from within any defined social group it’s as important to look at the constraints of that group (super-ego) as it is to look at one’s own position (ego). In the case of Christians striving for “authenticity” I think there is a strong sense of a community of Christ that conflicts with factionalism inspired by human politics. In that environment it becomes much more difficult (for one’s self and others) to discern individual authenticity from arrogance. It’s as important to go inside and quietly ask for guidance as it is to go outside and noisily participate. Maybe things have been on the noisy side for too long, but I have a feeling that being inauthentic is part of the dirty business of being human, the Fallen. I also have a feeling that like pigs in a mess, we’re meant to enjoy it (Middle English enjoien, from Old French enjoir : en-, intensive pref.; see en-1 + joir, to rejoice [syn: bask, relish, savor, savour]). Maintaining an artful distance from Truth one of humanity’s defining characteristics (although we’re not alone there: http://lonestar.texas.net/~trials/2005/01/lying-and-tigers-and-baboons-oh-my.htm )

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