Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Authenticity according to Seth Godin

Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise,
not "being who you are".

When Anchor was started, one of the values I had for our church was "authenticity"; just be yourself. This emphasis on authenticity was a reaction against the tendencies amongst church-goers to pretend to be something they are not, to put on their happy face when they walk into the foyer - when really they are very angry, very bitter, or very depressed. Authenticity was about being yourself, about taking off the mask, about being the same person on Sunday morning as you were Saturday night. Authenticity was our response to hypocrisy. Instead of trying to convince people how good you are, how holy you are, how sinless you are, just be up front and admit you are a sinner and even a hypocrite. To be authentic was to admit to being a hypocrite.

Part of the problem with this version of authenticity is in it's reaction against hypocrisy. Instead of working towards integrity, we work towards authenticity. Instead of building character, maturing, gaining wisdom, we try to just be more of who we are right now. No vision for the future, just working harder at being the me I am right now. It's kind of hard to hold on to this version of authenticity but then at the same time hold on to expectations for life transformation.

So Seth Godin's little post on authenticity, from which the quote above originates, got me thinking. My version of authenticity is inadequate. My reaction to hypocrisy is insufficient. It's not enough to not be a hypocrite - that's a shallow vision for a life. Authenticity as action - keeping the promises I made to my wife, to my children, that's a much grander vision for a life. Authenticity in my promises to God to trust him, to follow him, to serve him - that's a grand vision. I'll never completely root out hypocrisy in my life. And I'll never be completely authentic, never completely keeping all my promises. But if I was going to put more effort into one or the other tasks - I think the emphasis on more authenticity/integrity instead of focusing on less hypocrisy is the wiser, more inspiring choice.

As my friend Cheryl Kiel says: DWYSYWD. (do what you say you will do).

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