One thing I cannot stand is a lack of authenticity. I don’t like when people act one way in some situations and put on an entirely different persona for others. We refer to these types of people as fake or two-faced (or maybe even politicians). I prefer to know exactly whom I’m dealing with at any given moment, but when someone is constantly changing based on their environment… well they become more like personality chameleons and we never know which is the real version of them. I was thinking about this yesterday. And it occurred to me why I despise this particular bent so much… it’s because I’m pretty well guilty of it also… and I hate that about myself.
I remember when I was pastor of a local church. Initially, I made no bones about what I thought. I spoke my mind, and this to a fault… usually a very big fault. But still, people knew where I stood and they knew that no matter what happened, what they saw was what they got. As time went on, we began to shrink in size as a church… much due to some or many of my personality issues that people just couldn’t resolve enough to coexist with me. When we would start to assimilate new people I began to try to smooth out a lot of my rough edges and this was a good thing. I tried not to be so abrasive, loud, or obnoxious. I tried to listen more and simply be there for them and their needs. All of this is good.
Here’s where it began to go bad…
Sometimes people have strong beliefs about peculiar issues or maybe even mainline ideas. Perhaps they feel strongly about the nation of Israel or the church’s observance of certain holidays. They may think communion should be observed weekly or that we should speak in tongues or any of a countless number of other issues. When I would encounter these kinds of folks (to be fair, all of us fall in line with some kind of hang up), one of my main goals was to get them to stick around in our church. We were a small church and I wanted to see people come in and stay. Retention is a big deal in a small church. So I would pay them occasional visits… and conversations would begin. It was in these moments that I look back on with a certain level of disappointment in myself.
Often these conversations would be over something that was truly not an important aspect of the church or its teachings. In fact, more often than not they were things that just didn’t matter. But in order to make them feel as though these issues mattered to me, I would engage and hear them out. Once again, this is a good thing. Where it turns bad is that sometimes I totally disagreed with them and even thought that what they believed was either unimportant or simply ridiculous. Instead of being honest with them and direct, I became a politician. I began to try to find common ground or find a way to make them think I agree with them. And none of this was for their benefit. It was for mine. I could even try and fib a little here and say that it was for the church, which sounds somewhat noble. But one of the reasons I cared about this was for my own benefit. My salary and job performance were part of the equation here.
I wouldn’t often become lovingly confrontational when the need arose because I cared more about them sticking around than I did about whether or not it would be best for them or the church for them to stick around…
This represents a total presence of cowardice. And I hate hate hate that. It also represents a total lack of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. And once again I hate (x1000) that.
To this day, I find myself reverting back to this course of action at times if it will benefit me in some way… and I truly desire to see it stop. I don’t want to be a hard-line, unapproachable jerk that no one can talk to… but I do want to be authentic.
We should all seek to be that way. Just be ourselves. We all have room to grow and we should do so. None of us has arrived at any level of perfection… so we should stop being so concerned about what people think. We should live our lives, own our mistakes, accept the consequences, and be honest and genuine people. I think I would make a major impact on the world around us if the Christian Church, as messed up as we are, at the very least had a reputation for complete authenticity.
Be honest with yourself… and if you are… you will likely determine that you may have some room to grow in this area as well.