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Learning to be authentic in an artificial world

I hate things that are artificial. I don’t like malls, scripted “reality TV,” Twinkies, or Paris Hilton. And anyone who postures or poses just makes me head for the exits.  The toughest thing is having a friend who has a high “BS factor” yet who doesn’t know it (this being a G-rated blog, yo…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I hate things that are artificial. I don’t like malls, scripted “reality TV,” Twinkies, or Paris Hilton. And anyone who postures or poses just makes me head for the exits.  The toughest thing is having a friend who has a high “BS factor” yet who doesn’t know it (this being a G-rated blog, you’ll have to figure out what that stands for on your own).

I’ve got a few friends with high BS factors.  The irony is that they themselves rail against posers, but struggle with the same issues.  They attack others and boost themselves.  They are lauded for their successes, but are defensive and phony. Their children despise the BS in their lives. Or here’s one for you, we at AIM actually have a person threatening to sue us because we wouldn’t let this person serve as one of our volunteers because of this authenticity issue.  What’s that about?

Defensiveness has no place in the body of Christ.  Our churches should be AA meetings and our pastors should acknowledge themselves, with Paul, as the “chief of all sinners,” the confessors who keep it real.  If your pastor has a great three-point outline but looks too good to be true, run away.  Who knows what issues he’s got in his private life. I’ve sat under multiple pastors with this issue of posing and they all ended up shipwrecked.
You have to work at being authentic.  You have to put yourself out there with all of your mess, and the bigger a big shot you become, the more you have to work at it.  We’re all messed up.  Grace begins with admitting the mess and showing your brokenness.  I don’t particularly enjoy offering up my issues in this blog for all the world to see, but the liberation process has got to start somewhere, so why not with me? 

So, here’s a question:  If you’re living in an environment with a high BS factor, how do you keep from becoming the very thing you hate? Let’s look at a few practical points:

First, you’ve got to become safe.  You have to delve into your mess and recognize that it’s no worse than anyone else’s mess.  It’s not worth hiding.  Your insecurity keeps you from growing and also keeps others locked in their artificial worlds, posturing when they just want to be known. Get in touch with your brokenness – list the areas where you know you need help. Ask God to show you how you talk about your weakness in a way that may encourage and even set free others.
Second, give people in your life permission to call you on your posing or defensiveness.  Some of you don’t even know you’re doing it – you’ve got this bad habit that others are painfully aware of and you should just face the music. Get over yourself.  So you were wounded when you were a child and feel insecure.  Stop being a victim!  You’ve got to start trusting a few people to help you be real.
Third, get a handle on the important things in life.  Stuff is not important, but people are.  Meeting your own desires is not important in the big scheme of things.  If you start meeting the needs of widows, orphans, and lonely or oppressed people, your life may change.  Resolve to cut back on the trivial activities in your life that tend to lead a person down the path of superficiality.
Fourth, go to an AA meeting for a while and take some notes.  Those meetings are founded on the principle of authenticity.  Observe the power of freedom that comes by honestly admitting things that might ordinarily bring shame.
Fifth, go to your own church and take some notes.  How many people do you encourage?  How many encourage you?  Hebrews 10:24-25 mentions encouragement as a primary reason that we’re to assemble together.  Encouragement is something that is hard to fake, but the forced smiles and quick greetings a lot of churches do can leave you feeling plastic.
We were made to connect with others and that only happens when we offer up our true selves to one another. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Do I let people know who I really am?”  If not, maybe it’s time you started. If they knew you, they’d probably be more relieved that they’re not the only messed up ones in the room.

Comments (28)

  • This reminds me of a quote by CS Lewis:
    “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

    Funny, I never thought of that quote as reflecting the struggles we’re going through and finding a brother or sister to help us through it!

    It amazes me to see the bondage, lies, and schemes of the enemy broken when we just ADMIT we aren’t perfect. Oh the freedom that comes! I had a friend who once admitted to our entire campus ministry after a bout with some bad lifestyle choices, “You know, I always thought being a ‘good Christian’ meant how well I could hide my sin.”

    WOW. There’s some truth! Isn’t that how most of our churches work?

    Nothing thrills my heart more than to hear you, Andrew, or anyone else in leadership at AIM say to a whole room full of people, “We don’t have it all together! We don’t know what’s going on! We’re not perfect, and we’re going to mess up! We’re just trying to follow the Lord.”

    Oh man… I just laugh. Because in that moment, I look around and see a roomful of people go, “Wow…you mean, we can be REAL here? You mean, it’s okay to be NOT okay?!”

    I truly appreciate, value, and respect your honesty and brokenness. Thanks for letting us know you, and for leading us with humility.

  • Isnt it a shame though that in most churches when you do fail or make a mistake esp in a leadership instead of embracing, encouraging, you they want judge. If only we could all keep our eyes focused on God and off of each other.. maybe it would be much easier to be real with each other and embrace the idea of accountablility.. because the accountability would come out true love and following and serving the Lord together..Jesus says to speak in truth in love. If only it was that easy in the world today to do so..without having a agenda other than desiring all to draw close to God.
    i appreciate you honesty in sharing your blogs.

  • Thanks Seth, this was great. Concise and full of truth.

    This is right on topic with some teaching I got to share last night with a group of college guys I lead every week. I’m going to forward this post to them. Great to find some backup here 😀

  • I’m not sure why you keep quoting “Back Seat”, but my advice… look in the mirror and tell your self to have a good day!

  • Thanks Seth. Your posting caused me to remember a time where in a social setting with lot’s of “Christian worldchangers” our mirth moved to more serious discussions and I found myself sharing some areas in my life which were a struggle.It seemed “safe” to be revealing. I asked for people to pray about these ares of conflict and was specific enough so there was clarity.

    Following that impromtu confessional I asked the question, “What about you?” and waited for us to move into what I thought (and still do) the “body” is all about.

    The answer was silence.

    In addition to what you have written here with your typical effectiveness I’d reinforce that real “Christian community cannot happen” when there isn’t balanced confession and security in knowing brothers and sisters know how to hold a confidence, manage their egos and be real.

    Personally, I know my sin and areas of predisposed weakness. And without making hasty generalizations (which are wrong too)it’s a rarity to have people willing to start a sentence (I just went through a number of blog posts this morning) with the phrases, “I was wrong. I sinned. I created an offense”….

    And from my limited experience it’s rarer still when individuals believe they are either “there” as a Christian celebrity leader or “on the road.”

    That’s why we hear so many “clanging symbols.”

    Love you. We are coming up on our 25th anniversary of friendship.

    I’ll bring the O’Dooles.


  • Great Blog.
    I want to open with a mirror for all of those who cannot bring themselves to be real, consider this: You are working on self-promotion even if only in being “socially accepted”. True promotion only comes from God. The kind of promotion that comes from this fallen world is of this world and leads nowhere. (Egypt, wandering around,40 yrs.,for an 11 day trip) I like to refer to this trap of the enemy as “veils of darkness”. Yes, Veil’s (plural)…layers upon layers of subtle and not so subtle information, (this is the ememies plan of attack…OUR MINDS) that we have gather along the “socially acceptable path”, that have led us into a deep incidious bondage of all kinds of denial. We have to live in this world, but NOT be Conformed To IT! The enemy wants you to believe you can never get out, it’s all too complicated. LYE! You can, think of these veils as an Onion and peal off on layer at a time until the stink of it is over. Take back your God given ground and do some damage for the Kingdom!! Don’t let the enemies lies stop you along the way, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus. Call on the Lord for each layer and seek his answer and direction…walk in it and you Will Be Blessed! Thank You Jesus.

  • Amen. I agree with Butch and have found myself in many different situations where, in an attempt to bond my community closer together through vulnerability, I am the first to step out with my weakness and when my turn is done I am met with silence.
    But as M. Scott Peck put it,
    “There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”

    In search for life in community the risk of “silence” is worth it. I just wish other people would risk more!

  • I’m one of those folks still peeling the layers from myself (or am having them peeled) as I seek my new life and identity. It comes day by day and layer by layer for me, and it’s HARD let me tell you. It took me almost 30 years to get here, that is a lot of layers to come off, but by God’s Grace and that alone they are peeling away. Just as I get over or thru one thing, another issue is revealed to me, I have a feeling that this will in some ways never stop. It’s work but I’m glad to be doing it and I’m thankful that I’m not alone. Nothing has been more valuable to me than the encouragement of other believers, others who believe in me. My biggest stumbling blocks right now are those that do not, and I’m learning day by day to cut them out of my life and move on. This is where I’m at, me being real, thanks for the opportunity to put it on the line once again Seth,

    God Bless you and yours.


  • Right on Embo! Gotta take risks. I’m about to go be real with Black over lunch. As Josh puts it, there’s still a lot more layers to peel away. May we allow the Lord to refine us even more each day and let ourselves become undignified in our pursuit of God. Thanks Dad, you encouraged me.

  • It’s hard but blessed to be open. It truly is freeing for the heart – to just be yourself. The problem we’ve had in our family is when you open up, are transparent, and rather than silence, you get judgement. It makes it hard to keep being transparent with people. You hate to have to be selective with who will/ can be transparent with, especially in the church. Any thoughts on selective transparency?

  • Yes, Guard your Heart. Pray to God to sharpen your discernment of the spirits behind the individuals you come in contact with…that He would make it crystal clear to you, black or white, who serves which kingdom. Darkness or Light.

    Do not allow youself, wherever possible, to be manipulated by darkness…for these are the layers we are peeling away with the leading and guidance of Our Lord Jesus, thru His Holy Sprit….AMEN!!

  • Seth, pefect timing on this one! Seriously, I’m dealing with a very, very high BS friend at the moment and it’s getting harder and harder everyday. I have the feelings that it’s just a matter of time till things explode with her. A ticking time bomb! Actually I could really use some advise on the issue…

    Here is the quick recap… This friend is explosive if you try to bring up any problem that you might be having with her. She loves talking about others behind their backs, lies about situations to make her self look better, from her perspective everyone is out to get her and everyone is against her. We (my sister, my roommate and I) have tried to love her for months, and give her a safe place to be, but unfortunately we no longer have a safe place, and she shows up at our house often. We have dedicated our home to community and having it be a place where people are welcome. When she does come which is often there is no peace. I also know that we are dealing with a lot of demonic attachment on her. Normally I would just confront the problem, but when I’ve done that in the past, she exploded blaimed everything on me and started to put a huge wedge in our community. I love my community of friends and don’t want to see it divided or hurt.

    Ok, sorry for the incredably long comment, but I’m at a place where I really need some help and wisdom on this from people who are outside this.

  • Morgan,

    well, this would be a good one for others to weigh in on. To me it sounds like you’ve invested a lot of time making deposits in her emotional bank account and making it possible for her to trust you. Now it’s time to make a withdrawal against those deposits, speaking the truth in love.

    She is deeply wounded and needs healing. It could be that she needs deliverance. In either case, I’d begin by creating the right environment for your conversation. Then I’d ask her permission to say some things that you really believe she needs to hear. Tell her why you are motivated to share such difficult observations with her (because you love her and want to help her walk in freedom and grace).

    And if she chooses not to accept your offer of help, you need to erect some boundaries for her. She needs a clear statement of what is inappropriate behavior without having to feel like the relationship is being put at risk.

    Hope this helps. Anybody else have some thoughts?

  • Morgan, if I may add: We do not war against flesh and blood.
    If demonic spiri is the issue, deliverance may be required. True deliverance comes from God and Will Not be accomplished through good intentions, truth and gentle confrontation. If you are truly dealing with demonic spirit/s you will need to have no less than 2 highly skilled prayer ministers to address it. Seek a Holy Spirit filled healing ministy with a good long track record for her. You must be wise here, you could be opening doors for the enemy to operate in your life and those around you. I echo Seth’s advise in the if she is unwilling to accept help, Erect Boundaries.

  • love the post and response.i went up for pray not long ago
    and told the preacher “i am a mess’ and he said yea but you
    are HIS mess.somehow i felt better.
    Funny when i am by myself i can be who i want to be.then when i get around people i am some one else.and i dont like
    it.take off one mask only to find another.
    but i know the closer i am to HIM and learn HIS ways.the
    more i can find myself.
    i learned to be a people pleaser at a young age so i am 53
    and starting to grow up.and am learning new ways of acting
    not reacting.i dont know who i am yet but i know who HE is
    thanks for letting me share in HIS service belinda

  • love the testimonies, Brandon and Belinda. your examples help us all. all of us are a work in progress and we take a step forward with each confession and act of transparency.

  • great post seth and timely too with the onset of ComLife. we’re really going to need to learn these things as we do life together.

    i’m realizing that even the honeymoon stage is a bit unauthentic at the beginning of new relationships. i’m praying that we move into the mess of each others lives at a rapid pace and face each other with grace, love and acceptance.

    what a beautiful thing this will be if we are all real and safe with one another. i can’t wait to see what happens from here….

  • Seth, thanks for this you caught my eye because I’ve been telling people for two years now, “AA is everything church SHOULD be!!” I went to support a friend, originally, but God used AA where I never would have heard the same things from a Christian friend. That’s just how He reached me, brought me back into the fold.

    I so encourage everyone to attend a few meetings, and catch the spirit of complete brokenness, vulnerability.

    Keep it coming, Seth.

  • ….wow, Amanda, way to go. Seated in Him, at the Right Hand of The Father.
    Thank you Jesus that when it is us in You, and not just You in us, we share Your Heart and See with Your Eyes and that thru Your Holy Spirit we can speak with One Voice, Your Voice.

    Thank you GOD, You Are Holy Amazing….AMEN.

  • Morgan,

    Here are just a few words as curve balls to think about.

    Jesus was very good at upsetting people who had no intention of following Him (how else did a man speaking of love get so bruterly murder?) Tough boundaries to protect yourself and others are sometimes very nessessary. If you read in the old testament when the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt people got angry.

    Why would people get angry when “walls” to protect are put in place? (ask the Lord and He will show you why)

    God gave man free will.It is a gift from God and we need to respect that. Although we can pray for people to be set free not all want to.Some chose to follow the enemy with a rebellious heart even when they have been told the truth a million times.

    The Lord gave me word to me once from another christian. He had a picture of a big lake full of sticky horrible black stuff. Out of the black stuff he was trying to rise up with a beautiful white gown on but all these other people who were in the black stuff was grabbing on to him. The Lord said “There are some people who love the sin and have no intention of leaving it but at the same time they get some of my love and acceptance from me through you. They dont want to let you go because it makes them feel good but at the same time they do not want it for themselves.

    Judas was one of those people.

    Be wise and very discerning to know how to deal with this person. If you feel the Lord say put up some boundaries be prepared for a very bad response from her.

    I hope any of that helps

  • Wow Seth! This is great news! Thanks for sharing this post. The first pastor I served under was the type who appeared to have it all together. I tried very hard to build a relationship with him but he always kept me at arms length. I suppose allowing me to get close might have also allowed me to see some imperfections. For him, to be in leadership meant being the perfect Christian and it drove me to walk away from ministry. I actually told God, “If THIS is the ministry, I’m NOT going to be a part of it!”. I’m alot of things, but fake isn’t one of them.

    Less than a year after we left that church the worship pastor (who also ascribed to this mindset) was caught in an alternate lifestyle with similarly gendered individuals…(trying to keep it G rated). I felt horrible for him. the pastor actually said to another leader in the church, “He must have been faking his walk with God all this time!” Not being really honest, open and transparent as a leader only puts people into deeper bondage. What a breath of fresh air to hear that someone wasn’t allowed to be in leadership because they have an issue with not being authentic! I had to step down from a ministry position FOR being authentic! LOL!

    Thanks for your blog and thanks for being real!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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