What It Really Means To Be Authentic
Our behavior and our beliefs are out of sync, and we know it. That's why everyone keeps saying:
"Keep it real."
"You do you."
Okay, great. Now what does that mean, and more importantly is it something we should pursue? Just because it's a coffee cup/t-shirt/inspirational meme-worthy quote doesn't mean it will actually add value to life.
The answer of whether we should pursue authenticity depends upon how you define what it means to be authentic. I came across an excellent definition of authenticity today in Start With Why by Simon Sinek:
"Authenticity is when you say and do the things you actually believe."
I can feel you nodding your head along with me. Yep. Amen. Of course. But hold on - do we really do that?
If we really believed that God provides for us, would we still get so freaked out about money?
If we really believe our bodies are the dwelling place of the Spirit, would we still neglect and abuse them?
If we really believe our neighbors are masterpieces made in God's image, would we still trash talk them when they're not around?
Jesus was shockingly authentic. No, he was perfectly authentic. He said and did exactly as he believed - and as a result he lived the only sinless life on record in human history. So how do we follow his example?
Well, we don't start by looking inside ourselves. That's like trying to lick your eyeball. You can try, but you won't get anywhere.
The counterintuitive truth is that we need to look outside ourselves to first determine what we believe. We look outside to get to know our inside. Once we know what we believe in regards to the big questions in life (Why am I here? How did I get here? Where am I going? Does it matter?), we then have the ability to live in sync with what we believe. If we haven't reckoned with our beliefs - which includes exploring our doubts - we have no ability to be authentic because we have no foundation from which to act.
This is the first leg in the journey of authenticity.
For me, I look to God's word. I like to take small bites out of it, a chapter at a time. I consider his character and nature. I observe the narrative he's weaving through history. And I marvel at it. And I see my place in it. And then I start to see myself in it. And then I'm given the ability to act with authenticity. (And then at some point I fail at being authentic and repeat the cycle.)
If you want to keep it real, consider your answers to the big questions in life and then try your best to live in sync with what you believe. Of course, it matters what you believe because if you live authentically from your beliefs, your beliefs are the wellspring of your actions and your actions constitute your life. So what you believe drives your life.
If you're living authentically, that is.