Too much Authenticity?
If you have read my bio on the Harris Creek website, you would have noticed that I enjoy listening to Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN radio. They come on from 5 am – 9 am, and I have my radio set to AM 1660 to listen to them while driving. Occasionally, I will be in my car at 9 AM when Mike and Mike wrap up and Colin Cowherd comes on. This morning when Colin Cowherd came on, he opened his show with a three-minute speech on authenticity. As I listened to Colin talk, I was reminded of an article in Christianity Today Magazine that was posted back in March of this year called “Do Christians embrace authenticity too much?”
As the article discusses, “authenticity” is a popular word in culture and in Christianity. We celebrate those people who are ‘real’ and we dismiss those who we consider ‘fake’. In July Donald Miller tweeted, “Being an authentic Christian means showing me Jesus, not pretending to be Him. I dismiss ‘perfect’ people.” This is a great point. Too often, Christians pretend to have it all together. The last blog I wrote was about being real and putting real life and church life together. If we aren’t real, there is a great risk of us not understanding God’s great love for us. If we can’t be authentic, we may struggle to accept God’s grace. 1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we go around bragging, ‘We have no sin,’ then we are fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth. But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done. If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ then we depict God as a liar and show that we have not let His word find its way into our hearts.” (The Voice) If we aren’t authentic, we will have a hard time sharing the Gospel with people who are caught up in real life and desperately need to experience the love of Christ.
Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection says, “…authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice – a conscious choice on how we want to live.” Brown makes a great point: authenticity is not a personality trait, rather authenticity takes effort. But is it possible that people put too much effort and practice towards living an authentic lifestyle. The article in Christianity Today compares Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway, two popular actresses and borderline cultural icons. Both were Golden Globe Award winners but one of them is more popular according to the American public. Unfortunately for Hathaway, she is portrayed as to rehearsed and perfect. While Lawrence, who has tripped going up stairs to accept and award, made fun of herself, and let a few curse words slip during a speech, is portrayed as real and authentic.
Is it possible that we see the value of authenticity and the celebration of people who are authentic, such as Jennifer Lawrence, and make too much effort to be “real”? Do we try to be ‘real’ by a standard set by others rather than being ourselves. I’m sure Anne Hathaway has her faults and hopefully she would be willing to confess them, but why should she, and others like her, be ‘dismissed’ when they behave properly? Should Hathaway not rehearse a speech just so people will like her more? I am all for authenticity. I want us as Christians to understand our weaknesses and trust that God works through them. I want us as Christians to understand that we make mistakes and we struggle with things. I want us to see those mistakes and have a better picture of God’s grace. But I don’t want us to lose our sense of self just to live down to a standard of authenticity. In her book, Brown goes on to say, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
On one hand culture sets a standard of perfection and expects people to live up to it. When we pretend too, we are being inauthentic. On the other hand, there is also a part of our culture that values being real. We also run the risk of being inauthentic when we try to live down to that standard as well. I encourage you to pray for wisdom as you seek to navigate this tension and I pray you will understand who God created you to be.