POINTS TO PONDER

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When I lived in Asia and shopped in markets in Hong Kong, Seoul, Manila, Thailand, etc., I was told that all the famous brand names in clothing, jewelry, watches were not authentic. They were imitations of the real thing. I gained a new respect for the word authenticity. Believe it or not, the dictionary offers several definitions of authentic:

            1a Worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on facts – example, paints an authentic picture of our society.

            1b Conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features an authentic – for instance, authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse.

            1c Made or done in the same way as an original – for instance, an authentic Mexican burrito.

            1d Not false or imitation: REAL, ACTUAL – such as, he spoke with an authentic cockney accent.

            1e True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character is sincere and authentic with no  pretensions.

Psychologist Stephen Joseph tells us that Authenticity is highly valued: On the whole, we don’t like or trust people who come across as phony and false. Not surprisingly, we avoid such people. We seek friends and colleagues who are authentic. Authenticity is important, but what exactly do we mean by the term? Often, we judge a person’s authenticity by the passion and commitment they have for what they say and do. For sure, part of being authentic is standing up for what you believe in and speaking the truth as it seems to you, even if it is not what others want to hear.

However, the question is, authentic to what? People can be committed to and passionate about lots of things, but this by itself is not enough. Authenticity is more than when someone believes in what they say or acts in a way that is consistent with their beliefs. An inauthentic person is equally able to stand up and say what they truly believe. We ought not to judge authenticity purely by the passion a person has for what they say. The more important part of the authenticity question is to look at the character of the person. What’s behind what they say?

Humanistic psychologists would say that by definition, authentic people possess a number of common characteristics that show they are psychologically mature and fully functioning as human beings.

They…

  1. Have realistic perceptions of reality.
  2. Are accepting of themselves and of other people.
  3. Are thoughtful.
  4. Have a non-hostile sense of humor.
  5. Are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  6. Are open to learning from their mistakes.
  7. Understand their motivations.
  8. This is what is means to be true to oneself. And conversely, inauthentic people…
  9. Are self-deceptive and unrealistic in their perceptions of reality.
  10. Look to others for approval and to feel valued.
  11. Are judgmental of other people.
  12. Do not think things through clearly.
  13. Have a hostile sense of humor.
  14. Are unable to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  15. Are not open to learning from their mistakes.
  16. Do not understand their motivations.

If behind what a person says and does is a defensive and self-deceptive approach to life, then no matter how passionate and committed they are to a cause, ultimately, they are not being true to themselves.

Authenticity is ultimately about those qualities that show healthy non-defensive functioning and psychological maturity. Those are the qualities we need to look for.

We see this same multi-faceted definition by Psychologist Kennon Sheldon who describes authentic behavior as conduct that we have freely chosen and which allows us to express who we are. In other words, authentic people act in ways that reflect their values and identity. Authenticity can be difficult to define because it’s different for everyone. For example, a behavior that might feel authentic for one person could feel inauthentic for someone else. Ultimately, however, authenticity involves feeling like “yourself” and not feeling like you’re wearing a “mask” that prevents others from seeing who you are. In humanistic psychology, authenticity is seen as crucial for well-being, and a lack of authenticity can result in abnormal behavior.

Entrepreneur Sherrie Campbell gives us 10 qualities that most authentic people share.

            1) Authenticity cannot be reached if you are only looking outside yourself. You must learn to Selfreflect.

            2) Authenticity comes from your heart so you must have a healthy ego.

            3) When someone is ego-based, they are always focused on themselves.  You must focus on possibilities.

            4) You cannot be authentic without first possessing a strong sense of character.

            5) Knowing who and what you are naturally makes you a visionary. So, you must have a clear vision of yourself.

            6) When you are authentic, you experience emotional threats to your ego because you are a good active listener.

            7) Open communication is woven into the fabric of our authenticity. That’s why we need to be transparent.

            8) When you know who you are, you don’t hold judgmental attitudes toward others. You are consistently open to other’s opinions.

            9) Being team-oriented sets you apart from others. To be authentic you must give credit where it is due. A good marriage is a team marriage.

            10) As you strive to live as being genuine, you increase the likelihood of being authentic in the present. So, draw from life’s experiences.

Bible does not use the Greek verb authenteō which is translated as “authority.”[1] In the Greek it means “to act as oneself.” However, the concept of being authentic as being genuine, undisguised, sincere. There two great examples of being authentic in the New Testament:

First, there was a man named Ananias. His wife’s name was Sapphira. Ananias sold some land he had, but he gave only part of the money to the apostles. He secretly kept some of the money for himself. His wife knew this, and she agreed with it. Peter said, “Ananias, why did you let Satan fill your mind with such an idea? You kept part of the money for yourself and lied about it to the Holy Spirit! Before you sold the field, it belonged to you, right? And even after you sold it, you could have used the money any way you wanted. How could you even think of doing such a thing? You lied to God, not to us!”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. Some young men came and wrapped his body. They carried it out and buried it. And everyone who heard about this was filled with fear. About three hours later his wife came in. Sapphira did not know about what had happened to her husband. Peter said to her, “Tell me how much money you got for your field. Was it this much?”

Sapphira answered, “Yes, that was all we got for the field.” Peter said to her, “Why did you and your husband agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! Do you hear those footsteps? The men who buried your husband are at the door. They will carry you out in the same way.” At that moment Sapphira fell down by his feet and died. The young men came in and saw that she was dead. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband. The whole church and all the other people who heard about this were filled with fear.

The second is the Apostle James’ admonition about unused faith. If it is just faith and nothing more—if it doesn’t do anything—it is dead. But someone might argue, “Some people have faith, and others have good works.” My answer would be that you can’t show me your faith if you don’t do anything. But I will show you my faith by the good I do. You believe there is one God. That’s good, but even the demons believe that! And they shake with fear.

You fool! Faith that does nothing is worth nothing. Do you want me to prove this to you? Our father Abraham was made right with God by what he did. He offered his son Isaac to God on the altar. So, you see that Abraham’s faith and what he did worked together. His faith was made perfect by what he did. This shows the full meaning of the Scriptures that say, “Abraham believed God, and because of his faith he was accepted as one who is right with God.”[a] Abraham was called “God’s friend.”So, you see that people are made right with God by what they do. They cannot be made right by faith alone. A person’s body that does not have a spirit is dead. It is the same with faith—faith that does nothing is dead!

As we can see, being authentic first means not claiming you’ve accomplished something you didn’t do, and second, saying you’re going to accomplish something but you never do. So many people make up these inauthentic personas and think they are fooling everyone. Truth is, they are only fooling themselves. The “real you” will come out when you can no longer avoid producing any evidence to back up your claims. And remember, the last person you can deceive is God. He only gives to those who are authentic. So, if you haven’t received any answers to your prayers lately, remember the Apostle James’s warning: Hearing teaching and doing nothing is like looking at your face in the mirror and doing nothing about what you saw. You go away and immediately forget how inauthentic you looked.”[2] – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] 1 Timothy 2:12

[2] James 1:24

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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