“The ideal of authenticity is something like the ideal of perfection. All of us have some idea of what we are talking about without ever having had any direct personal experience of it.”1 This is a revealing and reassuring statement from David Benner. For truly, none of us will ever achieve perfection, and neither will we ever experience complete authenticity. I know this from personal experience because I have seen how long it can take me to admit to someone that I have made a mistake.
True authenticity was lost in the Garden of Eden when Eve and Adam recognized that first fatal flaw. Their immediate reaction was to cover up both their sins and their bodies. It is the same with us. We cover and hide and think that we can act like things never happened as we damage our interior lives. This stanza from a song by Randy Stonehill illustrates this well.
I have a secret I can’t tell
And I’ve learned to conceal it well
Ah, but this disturbing smell
Keeps coming from the floorboards
Under the rug.2
The goal of true authenticity, a goal which will never be completely achieved, is not to be completely sinless, something else that we will never achieve. Rather, the goal of authenticity is to be comfortable with our nakedness before God. We cannot hide from Him, and the more we try, the more we damage ourselves and our relationships with God and with others. So, as much as possible, and beyond our own capacities, we call upon God’s supernatural strength to give us the courage to stand before Him while His holy x-rays strip away all concealment. That is the goal of authenticity.
Benner, David G. The Gift of Being Yourself. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2004.
1 (Benner 2004, 75)
2 “Under the Rug” written by Randy Stonehill, Dave Perkins, and Terry Scott Taylor; published on the album Lazarus Heart, 1994, Street Level Records.