“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” (Hamlet, Act 1; Scene3)
By definition, that which is true, or not an imitation, but is real, actual, certifiable and genuine is authentic. A diamond, for example, which is real and genuine, has unique characteristics to certify its authenticity. There are a number of imitation stones on the market that do not have the same traits as an actual diamond. More and more, in our society, we are accepting what used to be unacceptable – imitations, simulated and artificial things.
In the same way, an authentic person is honest, and true to his/her own personality and character. A person’s authenticity is verifiable and validated by the consistency of one’s behavior, attitudes and speech. Honesty and truthfulness have always been recognized as virtues in the human society, even from the time of the philosopher Plato. Yet, the rock-solid foundation of human honesty is slowly but decidedly being chipped away by modern social norms.
Social media and advertising have such an influence on people. Fashion styles, political movements, trendy vernacular, designs, music, and even food (diets) are adopted and adapted as people desire to conform to what they see as the “latest and greatest.” Does having one’s hair cut like a famous football player somehow make one a great football player? Will that new diet really will eliminate those extra “pandemic pounds” without effort and in record time? I am still hoping that if I cut my hair like Jennifer Aniston, I will look just like her….Frankly, we are consistently being told a bunch of lies by the media that appeal to our personal self-image and self-worth.
In fact, no doubt we speak lies to ourselves: “I am inadequate, incapable, insecure; I am not pretty enough, or strong enough; I don’t think that I will ever amount to anything….” These lies are not from God, and should be expunged from our minds. In fact, we are God’s children, created in his image, and thus we have incredible value, worth, potential and possibilities. The Apostle Paul reminded his people that, “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline….He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace….Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Tim 1:7-12). That is to say, God loves us so much that he saved us by his grace alone. If we truly know God, then we can trust his word and believe that we are his beloved children. He is able, even if sometimes we think we are not. It is believing in the wonderful reality that, indeed, we are loved just the way we are, even if we are, still, a “work in progress.” We can be what God wants us to be; we can do what God wants us to do.
In addition to knowing God first, personal authenticity is learning to know yourself so well that every aspect of your life is true, honest and genuine. It is loving and accepting yourself for who you are, and refusing to be wounded when something does not live up to your false expectations. It is laughing at our foibles, not denying real problems, and seeking help when we need it. It is loving sincerely, and persevering in the power and the will of the God who created us. Being authentic is embracing our past and our present, our weaknesses and our strengths, and learning to value all the pieces of the puzzle of our lives.
So, human authenticity is actually living out what God (not society) made us to be. God made the real YOU, and not a cookie-cutter imitation of anyone else. At this point of my life, I am tired of society telling me to be something I am not – physically, emotionally and spiritually. I want to be an honest, authentic, trustworthy person. I value authenticity above popularity, truth and transparency above status and approval – in myself and in other people. If we are not being the people God intends for us to be (but are imitating who we think we would like to be), then we are short-changing ourselves, other people, and God himself. In the face of so much artificiality, insincerity, lies and deception, be who you are, because no one else can do it.