This article is meant to address the topic of authenticity because I don’t remember the last time Covenant tackled this issue (it was probably last week).
I think it is time to identify the popular trend of flaunting what I call the “messy lifestyle.” Seemingly, it is now acceptable to be proud of the moments when you are hunched over a cup of Great Hall coffee (or Starbucks for those with money), with three hours of sleep, making fun of the fact that you “literally don’t know anything” for your midterm in five minutes. I assume we have all reached that point sometime in our college career—except maybe those truly pious students in Mac; good on you.
Why are we, or at least I, so attracted to the idea of authenticity being equivalent to a raw and disorganized life? There have been times when I actually revel in the fact that I don’t have my life together and “that’s okay” because I am being “real.” I am writing this article because I find this to be a problematic attitude towards life.
First, let me clarify by stating that my intent is not to shame anyone whose life is not put together. I would not be writing this article in the car driving home from Fall Break, four days past its original due date, if I had my life together. You are welcome to live a perfectly disorganized life, but I caution against two things: both devaluing integrity and making an idol of your depravity.
The problem with treating messy lives as authentic is that it can lead to the glorification of unhealthy habits. Few things are more real or broken than gasping for breath at Erlanger Hospital because you didn’t recognize the signs of a panic attack, yet that is not a place I ever want to return to or dwell in.
Dan Barber, Head Chef of the highly innovative farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill, said, “Failure is important; it introduces you to an idea that you never want to return to.” So yes, it is okay to fail and live broken lives, but your failure should motivate you to further integrity and to leave behind stale life patterns.
I believe that God wants us to do all things with excellence in mind, like in Matthew 25:14-30: we are servants that have been given responsibilities and talents so that we may care for them and most importantly, see them multiply.
I end this diatribe with a final reminder that authenticity occurs when we pursue Christ likeness and not when we dwell on our sin. And sometimes, when we are in places when it would be much easier to be proud of our messes than to become more like Christ, it is necessary to fake it. There is value in putting on a good face until you reach the point when that is no longer necessary.
Erik Thoennes, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University, says, “To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn’t hypocrisy; it’s integrity.” That being said, my opinion is that sometimes you just have to fake it till you make it.