We live in a culture that is driven by image and appearance. Where people strive to portray a life of flawless success in careers, relationships, hobbies, parenting and just about anything else that can be showcased. Social media is a brag list full of accomplishments, magazine-perfected images, and carefully selected highlights of daily life right down to the food we ate last night. Because of internet and social media, we now have access to information about all kinds of people we know, have known in the past or have never even met. We can instantly share information and connect with people in a way we have never been able to do before. We can follow our favorite celebrities on Twitter, like their Facebook fan pages and learn the juicy details of their personal lives- fictional as they may be. We can look up our old high school friends to see who got fat, who lost their hair and who married and divorced who. Where we used to have to wait for a class reunion once every decade to see how we measure up to our former classmates, we now have a window looking right into their lives. We also have a broad audience of people from all over the world to notice us with just a click of a mouse.
All of this causes a temptation to compare, compete, and for some there is an overwhelming temptation to just withdraw and give up because they feel like they are the only ones struggling in a world of thriving success. In all of this mess of confusion there is a cry for something genuine and real. We keep hearing this word “authentic” get tossed around as people seek to relate. To uncover what is real and expose what is merely a facade.
On one extreme, threre is a frustration coming from people who are tired of seeing these images of so-called perfection. They are angry about the way it makes them feel to see the constant display of “polished lives” while they are empty, broken and hurting so deeply in their own lives. For these people, the images are a constant digging reminder of their perceived failures, shortcomings and their pain. On another extreme, there are those who are stuck in the rat race of competition so deeply that they don’t seem to know what is real in their own lives, and they are missing the enjoyment of their own experiences because they are so busy documenting everything to impress other people. Are these images wrong and offensive? Maybe a little embellished? Are these people fake and phony? Are they insensitive? Maybe, and maybe not. After all, everyone wants to put their best foot forward and show their best side for polite society. In spite of the trendy bed-bead and messy bun hair styles, most of us wouldn’t roll out of bed and go out into public without brushing our teeth, brushing our hair and for goodness sake, putting on some clothes! Interestingly enough, there are those who are willing to do just that… both physically and figuratively speaking on social media. They vent their every dislike, every frustration and exploit their own private family matters and intimate details for a mixed crowd of acquaintances, friends, coworkers, friends of friends and random strangers. Some would argue that they are just being “real” but is this really “real” or just real disturbing?
Obviously these are two dramatically extreme examples So what is this word “authentic ” and what does it mean? According to an article on psych.com the meaning is “to come from a real place within. Authentic is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be.” If you think this definition rings familiar it is because the bible is full of scripture commanding this very thing. We were never intended to play the part or be anyone else. God loves us exactly as we are and he loves us enough to cleanse us so we can glorify him in all of our unique beauty. Authenticity is not posting your vulnerabilities, weaknesses and flaws for all to see. Those things are intended for God, who loves you and is for your good, and for the circle of people in your life who love you, hold you accountable and have earned the right to be an intimate part of your life. Authenticity is having the character to consistently display the same set of values internally and externally at all times and with all people. James 1:8 says “a double minded man in unstable in all of his ways”. If you want to be authentic, heed this warning and be the same person everywhere you go and when you are alone.