How Authenticity Falls Short

Authenticity is a gigantic buzzword these days. We are all trying to be authentic all the time, and we are all judging everyone else for how well they are doing at it. For some of us, authenticity comes naturally. For others, it is a learned skill, and one that we struggle to put into practice.

It is a worthwhile pursuit. Authenticity holds hands with vulnerability and walks us down the path towards our true selves.

But I wonder if it is enough.

We treat authenticity like we are pirates on a quest for treasure. Like the pursuit of finding it and spending it is ultimate purpose of our personhood.

I am coming to believe that authenticity is only one a portion of our longing. It is not the treasure, but the map. It is the thing that can lead us to what we are really searching for, deep down in the pit of our souls.


There’s an important distinction between authenticity and intimacy. Authenticity is about me. Intimacy is about us.

authenticity and intimacy
authenticity and intimacy

They are connected, to be sure. True intimacy cannot come without authenticity. But intimacy also requires more than that.

Intimacy asks not only that I trust you with my authentic self, but that I provide space for you to trust me with your authentic self. Which means I will sometimes be the one put my stuff out for you to see, and other times, I will put out empty hands so I can hold onto your offering.

Intimacy requires not only authenticity, but also humility, love, and sacrifice.

Intimacy does not come easily. It is cultivated by energy over a long period of time. It involves failures and frustration as we engage in the messiness of life together.

Yet isn’t intimacy what love looks like? To know and be known? To lay down our lives for each other? To push away fear with compassion? To be truly with one another? To trust and forgive and encourage, over and over and over again?

People will fail us and we will get hurt. The cultivation of intimacy will not be easy. But let’s have the courage to try.

Pursuing something more than shared space

togetherI start out on the other side of the room, working through my task list while he is occupied with a show.  

What is so urgent that it pulls me away? Nothing really.


I tell myself that we are together in this moment. But in the same room is not the same as together, is it?


We are in close proximity, but we are not side-by-side. We are sharing space, but not sharing an experience.


This lesson I am learning with my son, I also need to learn it with my friends. Facebook, church services, grocery stores- there are many places in which I share space with people.


But is shared space enough? How might relationships deepen if I more intentionally pursued shared experience?


We cannot be together, truly together, until we move closer to one another.


Five Minute FridayThis post is linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. A weekly prompt with strict instructions: write for 5 minutes and post. No over-editing. No do-overs. An practice of freedom. A way to let go of perfectionism. An exercise for some not often used writing muscles. Read more posts or link up over there. Today’s prompt was: TOGETHER. (Note: I spend only 5 minutes on the writing, but I do take a little extra time to put together the image. I can't help myself.)

The difference between authenticity and full disclosure

  I think you should know something: there is a lot you don’t know about me.


stories I don't shareThese days, one of the highest values in writing is story. Disclosing our stories with one another is how we share life. We see how much we have in common, and we relate to each other on different levels than we could have otherwise.


But there is something problematic about sharing my stories with you: my stories do not involve only me.


Stories, in their very nature, have multiple characters. So before I write out my life to share with the big wide world of the Internet, I have to ask myself how my admissions will affect the others involved.


I want to be authentic and honest, but I also want to be respectful to the people I care about.


Disclosure comes with risk. Anything in full view is no longer protected. Once it is out in the open, it can be picked up and cared for and treasured, but it can also be dissected and thrown and smashed.


As a writer, I can choose to take that risk with my own heart. The possible hurt is worth it because of how authenticity and honesty can change things. I want others to know the real me. And I long for each of us to know we are not alone.


But what about the hearts of others?


Sometimes I decide the threat to my relationships is not worth the value of sharing my stories.


And so, there are many things about me you don’t know. I have stories that have been integral to my formation that I choose not share in this space.


I have not disclosed to you all the things I have struggled with in the past, all the issues I wrestle with now, all the ways that I have been hurt, or all my behaviors that may have damaged others.


The decision making process about which stories to share is difficult. There are things I could tell you that I think could help you. And maybe even make “my platform” bigger. But in the end, my relationships with the people I love in my real see-them-face-to-face-on-a-regular-basis life, end up playing the trump card.


I do not practice full disclosure. But I do believe I practice authenticity.


There is a difference between screening stories and hiding flaws. 


When a risky story comes up, I need to filter why it feels dangerous. If disclosing risks a relationship, the appropriate answer may be not to share. If disclosing risks casting me in a negative light, the appropriate answer may be to put it out there for the world to see.


My filter may be different than yours. Anne Lamott once said,


“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” -- Anne Lamott


I see her point. And if you feel that way, too, I don’t judge you for it. In fact, I celebrate it. The world needs you.


I just want you to know that’s not me. And I hope you don’t judge me for that either.


I hope you don’t assume that my life has been easy just because you don’t know all the stories of how it has been difficult.


It’s not only our stories that make us unique. It’s also the way we choose to disclose those stories. Let’s have the courage to be authentic to who we are, and to how we feel called to share.


What is your filter for sharing your stories? What do you think the difference is between disclosure and authenticity?