Authenticity is a pretty big buzz word right now. You hear a lot about people wanting to be authentic and have authentic relationships. Webster defines authentic as, “not false or imitation: real, actual, and true to one’s own personality, spirit or character”. I think authenticity is a great goal. However, what happens when our “personality” doesn’t match up with what God wants from us?
I have had several conversations in the past few weeks with individuals dealing with this dilemma. I find myself asking people to not allow their feelings to make decisions for them. To act in a way they know they “should” despite the way they may feel in the moment. I was met several times with the statement “but that is not authentic”. Many times this sparks a discussion about “faking” it or not being “real”. I’ve started asking this question, “If the “real” you is striving to live a life God wants for you, and knowing you are not perfect, don’t you think there will be times when your imperfection and what you’re striving for will collide?” Has this desire for authenticity allowed us to act on every whim so as not to be a hypocrite? What is the difference between “acting” and “trying to change”? When breaking this down further, acting is when you’re putting on a show and you are changing so that those around you will see it and be impressed. Trying to change is an “authentic” desire to be refined by God and make choices based on what He wants for you despite what you want. CS Lewis believed that what mattered were not our feelings, but rather our behaviors and intentions. In a published letter from 1951 he says:
“Don’t bother much about your feelings. When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them; when they are conceited, selfish cowardly, ask to have them altered. In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you. What matters are your intentions and your behavior.”
Therefore, before we can live authentically or even before we try to, we need to ask the following fundamental question. When considering authenticity, whose personality, spirit, and character do you want to be true to? Your own or God’s?