Erwin McManus on Integrity and Authenticity

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Erwin McManus shares some thought provoking thoughts on character, integrity, and authenticity that we all should digest in his book Stand Against the Wind: Fuel for the Revolution of Your Soul. You can purchase this book for a couple bucks and it is well worth it. This quote speaks as much to the culture of our day than anything I have read in a long time. The dangers to Christians and their faith are monumental as we hear more and more people who think sin is alright as long as you are upfront about it. I can’t help but think this is the backlash of people who don’t want to be hypocritical and so they put their sin out front and center. This grows into a justification for sin…as long as I am authentic about what I have done then my integrity can suffer. Here is the quote:

“You can’t say two different things at the same time and expect to be trusted. A person of integrity cannot say one thing and do another.

Integrity is the context from which courage is formed. Integrity, like wholeness, is a byproduct of our spiritual integration. ‘Integrity’ comes from the root word ‘integer,’ which means to be complete, indivisible – in other words, to be whole.

In our culture we have put an increasing value on authenticity and a decreasing focus on integrity. We have disdain for the pretentious and we long for anything that is real. But we mustn’t romanticize authenticity. When calling for authenticity, we need to take seriously the brokenness of the human heart. If we’re not careful, authentic can be the new word for arrogance. As long as you’re true to yourself how can anyone fault you, right? Authenticity can establish a self-righteousness that justifies abuse.

If we are committed to being the genuine article, first we’d better look closely as what we’re made of. Authenticity without integrity is lethal.”

0 Responses

  1. I don’t understand why he’s gotta build “authenticity” into a straw man. IMO, we could all stand to be a little more authentic. It occurs to me that one of the world’s largest complaints about the Kingdom is that we are inauthentic.

    I guess I have a hard time understand the dichotomy he’s erecting here between integrity & authenticity.

    1. I can’t tell you how many people I have heard rationalize sin because at least they were honest about what they had done.

      I don’t think he has built a straw man at all. He is speaking out against one particular form of rationalization (the plea for authenticity without integrity) without saying that authenticity in and of itself is bad. So if you were to ask him, “should we be more authentic?” you think he would say “No.”? Of course he would say yes but I think he would follow that up by saying, “But, don’t let authenticity be a cover up for poor integrity.”

      Does that make sense?

    2. But how many more people laud integrity while not being authentic? How often does the world see us as folks who are laser-beamed focused on integrity, and trumpeting that everywhere, but aren’t being realistic… living in the real world… being authentic?

      I think one without the other is hypocritical either way. But I don’t think he’s gotta put down “authenticity” to raise up “integrity.” That just doesn’t sound like the way forward to me on these matters.

    3. Three times in there he holds up authenticity as something we should strive for. So I think you are missing part of what he is saying. When you see a pendulum that needs to swing, you don’t aim for the middle, you pull it a little further than it needs to be pulled in order to get it to settle out a little closer to where it needs to be.

      1 – “When calling for authenticity…” – he is saying it should be called for.
      2 – “If we’re not careful, authentic can be…” – the flip side is, we should be authentic and we should be careful about it so it does not result in a lack of integrity.
      3 – “Authenticity without integrity is lethal.” – he is calling for a both/and and not an either/or

      One without the other is dangerous. That means he thinks both are important and should be practiced. You are making it sound like he is saying that authenticity stinks and should be avoided at all costs. He is not saying that at all. He is saying the far better practice is to pair authenticity with integrity and not be authentic just for the sake of “being real” with no real substance to it other than appearance.

    4. I am re-reading this to make sure I am not missing anything and trying to hear it with a fresh set of ears. That is quite hard to do so I may not get this right!

      First he says he is talking about something he has seen or witnessed in the culture we live in. What has he seen? He has seen a great desire for authenticity and at the same time the downplaying of integrity. “We have disdain for the pretentious and we long for anything that is real.” – He seems to be talking about “we” as in”We, Americans…” Obviously some Christians do this as well but it seems to me he is talking about a larger societal shift than just something Christians are doing. So first and foremost, is this a legit observation? I think it is.

      Next he writes, “But we mustn’t romanticize authenticity. When calling for authenticity, we need to take seriously the brokenness of the human heart. ”

      How is authenticity romanticized? It is when we make it an end to itself. Like I have said, I have heard people do this dozens of times. It’s like saying you are a sinner, not being willing to actually make any changes and then thinking God will save you because you were confessional. Integrity calls for repentance to go along with our confession. Then he even says we should call for authenticity! He does think it is worthwhile and isn’t building a straw man against authenticity. But in calling on it he says, “we need to take seriously the brokenness of the human heart.” What does that mean? He is saying if you have authenticity with no real remorse or repentance then you are totally discounting what is really going on on the inside. It’s like walking around saying, “My arm is broken, my arm is broken…look, still broken, gangrene and I really may lose it one of these days.” and doing nothing to actually promote its healing.

      Authentic as a new word for arrogance – this is true. I have seen it happen. It happens when people think it doesn’t matter what they do or how they live as long as they are honest about it. This is like people who have an “open relationship” in their marriage and think it is fine as long as their spouse doesn’t mind then at least you aren’t “cheating.” See where that goes? But pair authenticity with integrity and that keeps us striving to be righteous rather than just openly rebellious.

      “Authenticity can establish a self-righteousness that justifies abuse.” – Amen. This happens many times over among Christians and non-christians. See above example.

      “If we are committed to being the genuine article, first we’d better look closely as what we’re made of. Authenticity without integrity is lethal.” – In other words, authenticity on its own says, “I am open and honest about what I am made of even if I am a piece of worthless junk.” Authenticity + integrity says, “I am interested in my own worth in the eyes of God and out of that I am able to be totally up front and honest about what is there good or bad.”

    5. Couldn’t I just as easily say that you think integrity is pointless and that you are building a straw man out of integrity? 🙂

    6. I don’t think you could say that. Where have I maligned integrity?

      But he says that authenticity is romanticized to the extent that it’s over-valued. He essentially says that it’s tantamount to arrogance. And then goes onto explain how a veneration of authenticity leads to abuses in society.

      I hear him really maligning the idea of holding up authenticity as a virtue. I don’t see it. And I suppose that a veneration of integrity to the neglect of authenticity could produce similar abuses in society.

      I just don’t get why he’s gotta tear down “authenticity” to raise “integrity” as the standard-bearer. That doesn’t sit right with me.

  2. Quarreling about words? Timothy, Titus.
    Be both. Teach both. We need to see and be taught/reminded of both.

  3. My largest contention — and I’m sorry that hasn’t come through in a semantics debate — is why do you have to tear down “authenticity” to prop up “integrity?” I don’t get that. I think it’s unnecessary. And I don’t like that. And, ultimately, I think it weakens his argument for integrity.

    What’s abundantly true is this: this passage didn’t resonate with me the same way it did with Matt 🙂

    1. I guess I just don’t see him in anyway tearing down an appropriate form of authenticity…one that isn’t showy or surfacy. If you can show me that he is tearing at the very fabric of what authenticity is all about then I would have to agree with everything you have said. I just don’t see it yet.

      Let me use another example. “Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Rom 6:1-2b). Is Paul downing grace or is he putting it in its appropriate place…paired with integrity that says grace is not something to use and abuse and to sin however we want because God will come through in the end with abundant grace. Is that a fair comparison? You wouldn’t say I was tearing down grace to say integrity is important would you?

  4. I was a member/leader at Mosaic and my father was once it’s executive pastor as well as one of it’s first elders.

    Erwin loves to talk about “integrity” and “authenticity”, yet the pattern of his life doesn’t match his own words.

    Please visit my blog to find out more since there is far too much ground to cover in a single comment.

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