Consistency has always been a strong value for me. I want to be the same person in private, in public, and among friends. I know who I am and who I am not. I’m passionate. I’m courageous. I’m curious. I’m a learner. I have a discerning heart.
My family and friends know me. If my actions become inconsistent with who I am, it would be kind for one of them to say, “Tim, is everything okay? Something seems off.” At this point, I would have a choice. Do I acknowledge what they are seeing in me, or do I hide in shame or defensiveness from their observation?
Living an authentic life requires acknowledging when you are, or are not, living according to how God made you. An authentic life is the best life, and here are my top five ways to live one.
My acronym for a more authentic life is L-E-A-R-N. Let’s learn something new together.
L – Listen
Listen first to God and then to other trusted friends.
Listening to God must be rooted in His Word. As you listen, you’ll find a gap between how you want to live and how you actually live. Don’t run and hide in shame. God is not ashamed of you. Jesus authentically loves you more than you can possibly imagine. His cross proves it. Authentically listen to where the Holy Spirit is revealing areas for growth in your life. Invite the Spirit to shape your character.
Listen to trusted friends. Tell them how the Holy Spirit is working in your life. Listen to their words of wisdom. Better yet, actively seek them. During my work as a pastor, one of my ministry partners regularly says, “Tell me something you think I don’t want to hear.” I invite him to do the same. These conversations deepen our relationship. Our friendship grows more authentic by asking hard questions and listening to hard feedback. Listening develops authenticity.
E – Empower
Empowerment involves giving other people the power to use their unique, God-given gifts. The foundation of empowerment is humility. Empowerment says, “I need your help. I trust you to do the work. I release my authority so that you can have the power to make decisions.”
Jesus empowered His disciples. He could have done what the Father needed without them. Yet in Luke 9 (the sending of the 12) and Luke 10 (the sending of the 72), Jesus demonstrates an empowering heart. Despite not needing their help, Jesus includes and empowers His disciples. He sets an example of authentic empowerment, knowing we not only need His help but also the help of others. Empowerment intensifies authenticity.
A – Acknowledge
Acknowledge your gifts and gaps. Thanks to social media, our culture encourages us to create a perfect face and tell a perfect story – and never let anyone see your imperfect, shadowy underbelly. Show your gifts—hide your gaps. However, social media is not the appropriate place to expose your darkness. Instead, call on your friends.
Do you have a small group of people with whom you speak freely about gifts and gaps? Do they encourage and fan your gifts into flame? Do you have a father or mother who lovingly listens while you share your gaps? Can you acknowledge your sin to someone and receive a word of grace on account of Christ? I pray so. I pray you have a few friends who acknowledge gifts and gaps.
As a pastor, I am honored to hear private confession and offer absolution. I am equally thrilled when I hear about members in our church who have authentic friendships that include the consistent acknowledgment of sin.
Acknowledging gifts and gaps nurtures authenticity.
R – Reconcile
Cancel culture is weakening our desire and ability to reconcile. An authentic posture of reconciliation holds all things in tension. Think of a rubber band: feel the tension between your fingers. A posture of reconciliation helps us hold the tension of duality in every human relationship.
I must reconcile the fact that I am both saint and sinner. There is real tension in this truth. Jesus came to reconcile me back to Himself through faith. I have been fully reconciled to God on account of Jesus. My story is your story. We’ve now been given a ministry of reconciliation. Reconcile means “to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent.”
The two parts of us, saint and sinner, exist in harmony at the very same time. By faith given in the waters of Baptism, my primary identity is saint. So is yours. I’m also not surprised when your previous core identity of sinner reveals themself. I’m a sinner. I do life with fellow sinners. The two sides of everyone have been reconciled to God. Reconciliation strengthens authenticity.
N – No
“No” is not a four-letter word. Authenticity breeds boundaries. For example, there are always good things that you could be doing, yet they may not be the great things that only you can do. Say no to good – say yes to great (Thanks, Jim Collins!).
Authenticity recognizes your limits. You can’t be Jesus for people. Authenticity places you as a member of the body of Christ—not as the entire body. You can stay in a relationship with people and say no at the same time. Actually, no deepens authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.
Try it out. I bet you’ll like it, and your friends and family will better understand what you can and cannot do. No clarifies authenticity.