Keep it Real
(The Truth about Authenticity)
When I first became a believer 23 years ago, the one thing I found out very quickly about church life was that the majority of the people in my church were not what me and my girlfriends called “real”. We used to listen to church folk and then look at each other and say sarcastically “ keep it real”, this meant they were lying, not being truthful and honest about what Christian life really was. When we talked to each other honestly about the struggles we were facing we would say “keep it real sister”. This meant say it truthfully and honestly no matter what. Yet somehow I became a player in this game of pretending, I began to think it was the only way to stay in the Arena.
Over the years of becoming a believer I have learned to implement the truth about authenticity and the fact that this is the only way I can stay in the Arena and still represent Jesus.
Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures;
Simply put it is being the best you, you can be.
God loves Truth. John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” He is looking for someone who is authentic and who will be real with Him. He can deal with your truth no matter how ugly it may seem, what He can’t do is help you to perpetuate your lies.
Ask yourself – Are you true to who you really are? Do you even know who you really are? Are you honest to others and most important to yourself and God? What lies have you begun to believe as truth? Most important what is your measuring stick for truth?
As disciples of Jesus there is much more of an emphasis on being authentic than others because of the truth of following Jesus. He was the role model of authenticity. His Kingdom message was about knowing who you really are and walking in the power, blessings and freedom of this truth.
Yet even with all of His messages many members of the organized church today have become very similar to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.
In Matthew 15:7-9 Jesus criticized the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men
A simple definition of hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another.
We have all been guilty of this. But our desire should be to have our inner heart match up with our outward actions. This is developed over time as we become true to ourselves and who God has called us to be.
We need to always remember that God sees everything and is looking to see proven character and true heart motives in our lives. 1 Samuel 16:7 “for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
This is not false perfection, where you pretend that you are somebody you are not, but exactly the opposite. It is facing your mistakes and shortcomings and dealing with them in a Godly and biblical way.
Each of us must learn to guard Gods values in our personal and public life
We can not have two types of standards in our lives- one for personal and one for public, they must line up at all times to be truth in our lives. We must learn to live what we say and teach, to make it real. Who are you really when no one else is watching?
EE Cummings wrote– To be nobody in a world which is doing its best, night and day to make you everybody but yourself- means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and to keep fighting.
Staying real is one of the most courageous battles ever fought!
I get it, it can be hard to be real. It is completely terrifying to put yourself out there like that. However, this is freedom. You must free yourself to just be who you are, to share the true you with others and in return allowing others to share their truth with you, with no judgment. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” Matthew 7:1
Living authentically is living honestly. But to do this you must first practice being honest and vulnerable with yourself. Too many of us can’t really be authentic because we haven’t truly discovered who we are. We struggle with facing the ugliness of our own truth. How can we then share or accept people for who they truthfully are, right at the place in their journey?
These are some reasons we fail at being truly authentic.
1)We are trying to be someone else- pretending
Being authentic means you are being faithful to internal values rather than external ideas from the world. When you put on a mask to please others, you are being false to yourself. After a while if you wear a mask for long enough it becomes hard to distinguish between, what is really you and what is the face you have chosen to wear?
2) Unworthiness- not knowing your true value
Identity is important and when you know who you are and whose you are then being authentic becomes easier. Who really matters? Why do you value what they think?
We need to stop trying “to keep up with the Joneses” or the people who tell you that if you don’t have this or talk like that then you are nobody; start being happy with who you are and what you can offer the world.
3) Shame / Self Judgment
Shame is the reverse affect of guilt. Guilt causes us to change and become different but shame causes us to hide and changes our true perception of ourselves. We usually are operating in some form of self judgment when shame comes to visit.
4) Fear- Fear has a way of settling in and refusing to leave.
We are afraid people won’t like us or afraid we’ll push people away by being too real. Fear of judgment or fear of failure- that we won’t live up to who we, or others, think we are. Bottom line: Fear prevents authenticity. We must not give in to Fear.
The thing that combats all of these is unconditional love. When you allow yourself to be loved unconditional by God, yourself and others then you will find the pathway to authenticity.
This quote from one of my personal favorite children’s classic books “The Velveteen Rabbit” speaks it all.
Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ “Does it hurt” asked the Rabbit. Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
The Real Challenge
I want to challenge you to put down your shield and start trying to connect on a deeper level with God, yourself and people. Begin to show a genuine interest in others and the things that are important to them by listening and asking questions. Empathize more with people in difficult situations, especially if you have been there before. Smile more, love more, encourage more. When it comes to building trust and connecting with others, nothing is more persuasive and powerful than just being real. Internal and external intimacy is the destination.
Finally, one of the most famous literary quotations speaks to authenticity:
“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” William Shakespeare in Hamlet.
Keep it Real
In a world where we can be anything they tell us just don’t be yourself Your teachings did not reinforce with lessons to be who we truly are
Never show fear, imperfections, mistakes, vulnerability is a sign of weakness
Who taught me to be so inauthentic? Taught me invisibly to always protect
The mask now so real it has become a part of the mirror I project
Hypocrisy not authenticity, lost with no identity
Superficial to the bone
Trying on identities like they were clothing till we finally find something that eventually fits
Am I being held hostage to false ideas and ideologies
Jailed for daring to become anything other than the Hollywood fantasies
To be the real me would be a little drastic
That’s not what they want to see- they’re looking for plastic
The imposter within has taught me to fake it till it finally becomes believable
What does it mean to be a real ? Like the Velveteen Rabbit I ask
We grow in a karaoke culture, imitating, not genuine or real
Shame has brought me here, now I am held captive by fear
So I pretend
If I could only stop trying to fabricate the life I want to live
And turn around and face my shadow
Oh what a state of true beauty
To become unapologetically me
Letting them in to see my transparency
Experiencing the state of authenticity
Truth, honesty, sincerity and integrity
Being real in an artificial world is a difficult choice
I want to be in the arena of life
Fighting the fight of my life to just be me
So fake must become my opponent
And I must become courageous
And being authentic will become enough
Maybe true intimacy will join me
For every human spirit longs to be free
C.Hinds November 2013