Authentic – adjective ə-ˈthen-tik, ȯ-
True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.
“Authenticity.” Go ahead and say it, everyone else is. Try using it in a sentence like, “I just really appreciate her authenticity.”
It makes me feel somehow more intelligent, deeper, and yes cooler to say someone, or something like music or literature is authentic. It’s the buzzword that keeps on giving. And in the church, as you may know, buzzwords tend to stay in fashion long after their expiration date in mainstream culture.
I’ve been doing some thinking lately about authenticity. Truth be told, I love when I meet a truly authentic person. There’s just something refreshing about their transparency and character.
I’ve noticed something interesting about the use of the word though. Like any word that gets overused, it’s starting to lose it’s impact and be used in ways that aren’t true to its meaning. Let me cut straight to the chase with an example. Person X is having a bad day, their patience is worn thin, and they use some dishonoring language towards, or about, the person who just got on their last nerve. What should have been considered an inappropriate use of words is passed off as “just being real.”
Another misuse of the Authentic Card is closely related. Person Y goes on a rant about their boss, their pastor, or their neighbor. Then they say, “I just needed to vent.” Why is this OK among believers when scripture tells us “A fool gives full vent to his anger” in Proverbs 29:11. Venting isn’t an expression of authenticity unless you’re an authentic gossip and a harpy.
The idea that the day we had, the mood we’re in, or the disposition we possess is an excuse to be a total @$$hole in the name of authenticity is a notion that needs to die, especially in the church where we are supposed to be governed by God’s Spirit and word, and not our feelings. We need to stop valuing authenticity over love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The truth is, if we’re following Jesus, then He has put a new nature in us. When we get ugly, petty, or whiny, then claim, “That’s just the way I am” (because we’re authentic, of course) we’re saying that the work God did for us wasn’t enough. We condemn ourselves to a life of being ruled by a sinful nature, rather than His nature in us.
Most of the time, when I hear self-claims of authenticity, it comes attached with an ugly attitude of arrogance. But here’s what I’ve learned about genuine authenticity: it’s humble, it desires to improve rather than broadcasting one’s faults with pride, and it doesn’t judge others for appearing to have it together.
If we truly desire authenticity in our lives, we need to stop seeing it as an expression of our attitudes and feelings and evaluate how authentically we are loving others. True authenticity loves, values, and serves others and, in that, we are loving God. That’s the kind of authenticity I want to have!
1st John 2:5 and 6 says, “But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”