This week, I discuss authenticity: what it is, why it’s essential, and how to cultivate it.
Table of Contents
- A Lie Never Justified
- What Is Authenticity? Why Is Authenticity A Virtue?
- Three Ways To Be Authentic
- 1) Always own up to your mistakes, vices, and moments of weakness. Be understanding but firm.
- 2) Never do things you hate or will cause self-hatred.
- 3) Consume art that portrays goodness to inspire your honesty.
- Be Honest With Yourself
A Lie Never Justified
A Lie Never Justified by Henry Clay Trumbull argues that lying is unacceptable, no matter the circumstances.
Lying is evil because God does not lie. We are made in God’s image and made to follow God; thus, we cannot tell a lie. Trumbull also argues lying hurts the individual’s soul while damaging communal charity, stability, and well-being. If we cannot trust ourselves or our neighbors, our society can’t resolve differences or make sense of complex issues.
Other reasons why lying is harmful include the following:
- Lying forces the individual to deny the truth so we can appease something less admirable than honesty.
- Lies reveal insecurities about our actions. If we are dishonest to cover up shameful acts, then we poison our souls and create a negative view of ourselves.
- When we create a civilization that can quickly and freely lie, we create a culture where it’s hard to trust another person.
What Is Authenticity? Why Is Authenticity A Virtue?
Authenticity encompasses two significant components: honesty and genuineness.
Honesty is being truthful. You don’t tell lies. You conduct yourself in ways that make you trustworthy: you avoid gossip, treat people well, and present yourself in a positive and civilized manner.
Genuineness involves being truthful to who you are. You don’t lie to yourself. You don’t change your behavior to manipulate others. You don’t abandon your virtues for the sake of comfort. You live what you believe.
As stated before, lying creates distortion. The more you make, adhere to, and support what isn’t honest, the easier it is for you to support what isn’t good.
Three Ways To Be Authentic
Authenticity is achieved inward. The more honest you are with yourself, the easier it becomes to be truthful when interacting with the world.
To be authentic, you need to do these three things:
- Always own up to your mistakes, vices, and moments of weakness. Be understanding but firm.
- Never do things you hate or will cause self-hatred.
- Consume art that portrays goodness to inspire your honesty.
1) Always own up to your mistakes, vices, and moments of weakness. Be understanding but firm
Everyone has flaws, vices, or shortcomings. At the heart of authenticity is acknowledging and accepting these flaws.
You must accept that such behaviors are harmful and strive to overcome them. When we lie about iniquities, we create falsehoods that do not serve our virtuous ends. We poison ourselves, our minds, and our objectivity. Portraying a vice as good will never help you in the long run.
Lastly, be honest but understanding about your vices. Some of my worst addictions came from anxiety and stress. I sought to empathize with myself but never used my anxiety to justify my vices. Because I was honest, I solved the root causes of my stress without denying or tolerating my pain.
2) Never do things you hate or will cause self-hatred
When we act poorly, we nurture self-hatred. When we hate ourselves, we cannot live authentically; our subjective view is skewed, and it is skewed for the worst.
If we perform virtuously, we can see ourselves and the world clearer. Virtuous behavior rids us of shame and guilt. Virtuous behavior bolsters rational pride. Virtuous behavior improves your life, increasing your happiness. All of these elements assist in living authentically.
Your virtuous actions improve your well-being. Your vices corrupt your vision. The more virtuously you act, the more truthful you can be.
3) Consume art that portrays goodness to inspire your honesty
Your genuineness defines authenticity. That which is cynical is not genuine: it takes the blessing of life and only highlights the negatives. Cynism gives an untrue view of the world.
To be authentic is to live according to what is objective, true, and virtuous. Truthfully, there are more blessings than horrors in life. Most of our suffering stems from the love of vice, not from the natural world. Those who celebrate depravity, who take the cynical approach, are living in the lie that life is wretched. If you live a lie, you cannot be authentic.
If you are told there are no heroes, you will live as if there are none. You will abuse the virtuous and productive because you think they are “lying” or “fake.”
“Realistic” fictional worlds or ungrateful people will plunge you into nihilism. Once here, you cannot be authentic, for your view of the world is false. Thus, your responses to the world will be incorrect. Avoid cynical, ungrateful people and stories as much as you can.
Be Honest With Yourself
Notice that nothing on the list is as vapid as “be your authentic self” by following every stupid whim you have. Authenticity is not about self-worship.
Authenticity is as much about expression as it is about suppression: suppression of whims, vices, and iniquities.
Embrace internal tyranny. Within that tyranny, you need to live as you are meant to live: virtuously and with greatness as your end goal.
- Do you feel that you are living authentically? If yes, does your life feel hollow or enriched? Are you living virtuously or loving your vices?
- Who are authentic people in your life? What are they like? How do you know they’re genuine?
- When you hear the word “authentic,” what do you think? How does society’s definition differ from mine?
- What can you do to become more authentic and to live honestly? What difficulties are you facing in this journey?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.