There is a great desire today for people to be real. People want to be told like it is…no hypocrisy, no glossing over and certainly no “holier than thou” approaches. What we have seen has been refreshing for the most part – a real desire for authenticity among Christian leaders, teachers, and preachers. This is a good thing for the most part. It is good to realize that we are all sinners. It is good to realize that we don’t try to put ourselves above people who have problems when, in fact, our problems may be worse than those we try to “one up” spiritually speaking. But authenticity can have some drawbacks and pitfalls. Here are ten to consider:
- The first is the danger of the illusion of transparency. We let people in on bits and pieces that are convenient to say at the time. We confess certain things, while other things we hold tight to our chest. All the while, we tout our authenticity but we still have our secrets that we wouldn’t dare let someone else in on!
- The danger of authenticity for the sake of expediency. This is where authenticity is used as a means to an end. We aren’t authentic to be authentic. We are authentic in order to accomplish an alternative agenda (to appear to be a better speaker, teacher, preacher or just to get someone else to open up about their own lives quicker). Authenticity becomes a tool rather than a quality.
- To be cool. Believe it or not, some people preach about their faults in order to sound cool. They want young people to know they can relate and connect. Ironically, authenticity itself can become a facade.
- The easy way out – we get in an accountability discussion and instead of really being authentic, we pick one of those “little sins” to confess to the group. People give us praise for being willing to share something like that…but if only they knew what we weren’t telling them! The more compliments we get, the more we might actually believe we are genuinely authentic.
- Authenticity to elicit compliments. Here we aren’t so concerned about being real as we are about getting praise from others.
- Authenticity for the sake of shock value. You don’t see this one as much although it does exist. This can be used to make the point “see how far I have come” or it can just be an attention grabber. Either way, if the focus is on self rather than God working in you then it becomes pointless.
- To think authenticity can happen in a room with between 15 and 1000 people in it. It just can’t. In churches we have to provide more means for people to meet together in smaller groups and away from the church building.
- To think authenticity is not important. You know how it goes…you ask someone how they are doing, they answer you honestly, and you wish you never had asked!
- Thinking honesty about sin might make a weak brother more likely to stumble. There is a fear among some that if you start getting honest about sin in our lives that it might make more people stumble if they knew we did this or that ourselves. We do have to be honest about our shortcomings and honest about just how devastating the effects are in our relationship with God. We can never make sin seem appealing, acceptable, or beneficial.
- To think it is okay to do as long as you are honest about it. This one is a real biggie. You see this all the time…someone does something heinous and their rationale was “at least I was honest about it.” As if that makes it alright! Authenticity does not mean something loses its shame or is no longer destructive. In fact, I believe sin can be even more destructive once we fool ourselves into thinking its not.
What would you add?
You said “authenticity can itself become a facade.” So true. It can become a way to actually seek gratification through the re-telling of the past. Also, if we are going to share our past, while we want to be authentic we must also tell it in such a way that still emphasizes the grace of God that has made us a new creation in Christ. And if we need a guide…just read the apostle Paul and ask how much time he spent talking about what God, in his grace and mercy, is doing now rather than what he or the Christians he is writing to in the past have done.
Grace and peace,
I agree about there being a great thirst for authenticity in our world today. I wonder what it is that makes folks be drawn to sources of (or illusions of) authenticity…
But isn’t by definition a facade a front to something and also by definition authenticity is the lack thereof. How could one be the other? Isn’t that a tautology?
In reference to #3 – That’s why I said it can become a facade. Becoming means it turns into something that it didn’t start out as. There was a change from authenticity at the start to facade at the end. Hope that is helpful. Thanks for sharing a thought provoking question!