The End of Authenticity

Confession time: I'm relatively narcissistic.

Not in the classic self-love sense. More in the "my own ideas impress me more than anyone else's" sense. At least that's how a friend of mine put it on Facebook a while back. I'm that annoying guy who isn't interested in listening to you as much as thinking about what amazing thing I can add to a conversation.

Because, you know, I'm practically brilliant and I have lots of brilliant things say. It's partly why I don't read many books; I think most literature and most writers and thinkers are beneath me. Which is ok since my IQ is nearly at genius level. So don't be embarrassed if and when you meet me. I'm smarter than 98.5% of this world's inhabitants, so odds are, I'm smarter than you.

That's me being authentic. Yet somehow I don't think that attitude will win me more Twitter followers or Facebook friends. Consider that conundrum for a moment. Authenticity has become the currency of today's culture. However, what value does it really have if it comes at the expense of relationships?

If you need to, re-read the first paragraph and then say it with me, "Alex Bersin is a terrible person." This isn't some self-deprecating, pity-inducing shtick. This is where authenticity should lead us. Because authenticity isn't an end in itself; it's a beginning.

If it wasn't, if it was the end goal, then we have become nothing more than fully self-actualized sinners. We have simply become proud of our weaknesses and our glory comes from being cowards and defeatists. We can disavow shame and guilt all we want as obstacles to achieving personhood or accepting ourselves or becoming truly human. But the truth is these things are tools that keep us from getting stuck. Stuck in authenticity.

photo credit: n0t r34lly via photopin cc
Not that authenticity is a bad place to be; to the contrary, it's a very necessary place. It's just not the destination. Because we can't be sanctified if we don't think we need to be. In this way, authenticity could be compared to confession.

The goal of confession is never to shame the person confessing. It's to free the sinner from secrecy, to promote communal honesty, and encourage a fellowship of accountability. Likewise, our goal shouldn't be authenticity; our goal should be Christlikeness.

Authenticity has become an excuse to be undisciplined, insensitive, and unapologetic. It's a childish excuse to avoid denying ourselves as Jesus told us. Yes, the past generation's self-righteous facades may have been a farce, but at least they were striving for something more than who they were. They didn't settle for authenticity. They wanted to be better people.

Self-love and self-honesty don't make us better--they can't. But they can force us to realize that we're all terrible people. And once we realize that, once we realize that we are nothing without Jesus, there are no limits to what he can do in us. Otherwise, the best we can do is remain authentic: true to our helplessly evil desires.

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