Authentic is a word we use a lot nowadays in progressive church circles. We talk about people being authentically who they are. We talk about authentic relationships. We talk about authentic ministries. It truly is a buzz word in the communities I get to hang out in. And I like that it is.
Authenticity is defined as something or someone who is of undisputed origin; genuine. Some synonyms for authentic are genuine, real, bona-fide, truth, veritable. I believe that we are first and foremost to be authentic people. And I also believe that this is where so many of our human problems lie – many of us walk around being inauthentic and being unclear of our origin. We don’t know whose we are, who we are or why we are. This lack of knowledge leads us to live lives that are a facade as we try to be what we think others want us to be instead of doing the work and taking the time to be authentically who we have been CREATED to be.
I often talk about why I am still connected to the Christian community. There are many reasons why I could have left and many more that others have, which are truly valid. For me, however, the church provides a foundation for how I see myself and come to know myself. It provides the basis for understanding my origin and uncovering my identity. It is a stabilizing force in my life, because at times when the external threatens to rob me of my identity and lures me to inauthentic ways of being, the church repeatedly reminds me that I am a child of the Most High, crafted in God’s divine image. I am bestowed with gifts of creativity, hospitality and love. It brings me back to my authentic self.
But growing in understanding of your self and living it out authentically takes work and it takes community. It takes work in that you have to discern what your gifts are. You have to engage in the ongoing journey of self reflection and discovery. It takes community because we all need accountability. The community I speak of is the one that speaks life and sparks eye-opening truths that lead to clarity about who you are. My community is a mirror and shows me the good, the bad and the ugly of who I am. Being a part of my church community reinforces my God-given identity and calls me out when I am not living into it.
The greatest gift that living authentically has given me is the recognition that I can only be who I am and the realization that I am not here to please anyone by God. That might sound a little like, “I just don’t care what others think” and if I’m being honest, there is an element of truth in that. For so much of my life, I constantly worried about what others thought. I even had a random bout with this recently. By and large though, I really live my life intentionally focusing on what God has called me to do and who God has created me to be. My real struggle is that I tend to be a little to hard on myself, but that is a work in progress. I have found that when I authentically show up and remember whose I am, that relationships flourish and people are given permission to be and do the same.
My favorite author Brené Brown says this about authenticity in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let out true selves be seen.”
Because I work in the faith world, I can’t help but take her work and add to it. I would say it like this – “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day because we have been given the gift of free will by the Creator. It’s about he choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let out true selves to be seen. And the choice to fully embrace the gifts that God have given you and your identity as Beloved Child of God. “
Let’s practice being authentic together and see what happens.