Monday, August 06, 2007

The Real Thing

Plastic Cup

Somewhere, sometime, a little old man or maybe a verbal child coined the word authentic. The real thing. Which implies there are false things. Fake things. Unreal things.

I've been musing about this because my friend Mary DeMuth just wrote a book called Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. (God bless her. Sounds like a true challenge.)

Anyway, I'm wondering, what does it mean to be authentic, real. Not just as a parent, but also as a friend. Or maybe as an artist or a writer. I'm puzzling... do we have a sense of things being "true or false"? Authentic or inauthentic? Why does this matter to us, or doesn't it?

Maybe it's time to start a new word revolution, if everything we see, touch, taste, think, do is just as real as the next thing. Maybe the word authentic needs to go the way of the dodo bird. Or not.

Plastic Cup photo, by L.L. Barkat

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Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

Well, I looked up "authentic" in my superlative dictionary. Turns out it comes to us from Greek authentikos. A related word authenteoo actually appears in 1 Tim. 2:12:
"I do not permit a woman... to have authority over a man."

Darn it, Paul! You'd think he could have given us something useful for this postmodern age.

On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, 1 Timothy is not about me...

5:00 PM  
Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

I see it as you said, as being real. Instead of playing at life, creating yourself as a character, you step into your own skin and own yourself. Which means, warts and all, we tell our stories, all the while pointing to Jesus. If we're really honest, we'll point to Him as the One who does all the good stuff inside us anyway.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I grew up in a home that valued pretense. How things appeared was given more weight than how things actually were under the surface. Was this just true in my home? I have a feeling that I did not grow up alone in this. I think the word "authentic" and the value that is given to being authentic is a reation to the image creating of a generation ago.

For me authentic and transparent are interchangable. I like writing where the writer reveals their heart. I like sermons where a pastor admits mistakes. When I mess up with my kids, I acknowledge my mistakes and try again. When I mess up in a friendship, I do the same. These things are possible because of the gospel. I don't have to be perfect because Jesus was. I know human nature. We are all sinful. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. To pretend otherwise is to be a phony. Being authentic allows people in. It allows for healing and connectedness. It is a sad thing when I see people who cannot accept less than perfection from themselves. Perfection cannot be attained this side of heaven.


5:30 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Good post and comments. Yes, I too struggle with this. Maybe it's an overused word, but it does convey something so important, as Mark, relevant girl and Kate point out.

I have struggled just recently in being disingenous and hence hypocritical first fooling myself, and then carrying that into public. Of course I wrote a post on that to be released soon (unless I draw back in hypocrisy!).

6:22 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

LOL. Dodo bird.
I think the only way we can truly be real/authentic is "Him *in* us".
Then we have the freedom to be who He created--not what we even *think* we are....crazy, I know.

Then we follow that "moral code" (hopefully) that allows us to be "authentic" to others. (I'm thinking trust, truth, etc.)

I agree with Mary: "If we're really honest, we'll point to Him as the One who does all the good stuff inside us anyway."

6:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Authentic. It has a feeling of fake even though it's not meant to be. A "too good to be true" feeling.

Like genuine. We see so many labels like, "Real Genuine Fake Leather". We're kinda on alert now. :)

6:30 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Mark... very cool. So what do you make of the Timothy passage in light of this? Or what do you make of the word authentic in light of this? Regarding Paul, sometimes I get frustrated with him, but then I remember how avant garde he was for his time. Really, he relied on women to move the church forward, at a time when the synagogues still made women sit behind a curtain. (As some still do!)

Relevant... I like that thought about creating ourselves as a character. The us we wish we were. But I think people often see through that, which makes it doubly embarrassing for us (if we only paid attention) to live in an empty shell of wishful thinking.

Kate... thank you for sharing that about your family. It's an interesting question to consider how much we should tell the world and how much we should hold back. I wonder if there is any positive place for image guarding?

Ted... Sometimes I wonder why we are hypocritical. What drives it. Especially if we realize we will be found out. But maybe that's it... maybe we think we can fool not only ourselves but others too. Btw, thanks for your honesty!

Andrea... Ah, authenticity relates to trust and truth. So we believe then there is such a thing as truth? I find this fascinating, because when truth relates to questions of God people often get philosophical about the nature of truth (and can it really be known, etc.)... but when it comes to relationships it seems that truth is something we seek and value and believe in.

Eve... real genuine fake leather... that is too funny. I'm not sure I've ever seen that. But, indeed, what would it mean?

8:01 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

The hard thing is, now, with its current popularity, how many of us say we're authentic, and how many of us really are? I mean, I'll admit to mistakes, but only the ones I want you to know about. I have an image to keep here, and that image is that I'm authentic and I make mistakes - a certain kind of mistakes, that is. Other kinds, well, we won't talk about those.

10:04 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

Heather makes a good point; maybe I really think I'm being authentic when, in fact, I only share enough of those dark & ugly things that will make you think me authentic. Maybe I think that it's the same thing to be thought authentic as actually to be authentic.

"Authentic" is a good word, I think, even if only to remind us that there is something other, something more than all the lies and half-truths by which we are surrounded. I think there is such a thing, but I wonder if we'd know it if we saw it.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Can't authenticity also be a created thing? Example: I treat a difficult person with grace and kindness, even though I don't feel that way from my gut. At least not at first. Eventually, genuine warmth breaks through.

9:30 AM  
Blogger christianne said...

Ooh, Craver has a good point. I also felt particularly moved into deeper understanding of this subject by Heather and Kirsten's comments. I think the moment we start filtering for the sake of image or to make people think a certain way about us, we become inauthentic.

I used to think being authentic required being completely up front about everything with everybody. I'm (slowly!) learning that there's a time and place for certain levels of authenticity, or depth, but that we can be fully present at all those levels. Furhter clarified: someone I just met doesn't get to be privy to all the depths of me, but I can be real and true with them at a less all-revealing level still. Does that make sense?

Also, I was thinking about your line at the end -- that all we see, touch, taste, hear, and do are real. That last one about doing made me stop and think: yes, doing something makes it real, but it doesn't make the motive behind it real or pure. So, in that sense, is it really real?

11:23 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Heather... loved that, about having the image of being authentic and making mistakes. Of course, it's hard to find one's way with this. I'm not sure we have to tell all to be authentic.

Kirsten... are there certain areas where we put up with lies and half-truths more than others? And, if so, why?

Craver... to grow into authenticity through practice. I can see that. I suppose that makes us a faker for a little while? Does it matter?

Christianne... a good musing... what makes things real? What do we look for as qualities of the "real"? Is it the same across different areas? (Say, relationships and foods?)

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting discussion. As I was reading the comments, I found myself with similar thoughts as Heather. It seems like the "in" thing to do right now to be authentic (the youth culture/post modern response to all that reason and rationality!). And yet, I find that I actually appreciate only those people whose authenticity sits well with me. Those people for whom being themselves comes off as proud or boorish or insensitive, I'd really rather them not be so authentic.

All this to say, there is something to be said for carefully evaluating the nature of our relationships and being wise about whom to share our most personal selves. This doesn't mean we we live with facades and pretense except with our few closes friends, but it also doesn't mean that we bare our true, authentic soul to everyone we meet.

Am I making sense?

5:07 PM  
Blogger MamaMonk said...

L. L--

I realize this is off topic, or maybe it's not. Maybe it has to do with the authentic. I recently found out about a Film coming out int he Fall. It takes place in New York and is a grassroots endeavor that just won at the Toronto FIlm Festival. Anyway, it's called Bella. In case you haven't heard of it, check out the website at It's about authentic community and three people really loving eachother, changing eachother's lives. It looks incredible.

6:29 PM  
Blogger christianne said...

Sight unseen, I second the vote for Bella as a film to watch for. When Kirk and I were at the Wilberforce weekend in January, we heard a talk by a guy who'd been involved with the film and his description sounded marvelous. In fact, just two nights ago Kirk and I were trying to remember that film's name, and when we did remember it, we sighed and said, "We need to see that film."

10:37 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Charity... oh, I love it. Will the boring and annoying people please be inauthentically interesting and soothing!

Mama Monk.... we love these kinds of films. The ones on the side. If I don't remember to find it, I'm trusting you'll remind me?

Christianne... well, if you and Mama Monk are on the same page, sign me up too!

5:55 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

L.L. there are two ways we can look at authenticity -- and it depends on who you consider your "author" to be. If one's author is God, then authenticity is a cooperative development between creature and Author, the creature becoming what the Author had in mind all along. If one's author is one's self, all the "authenticity" you can muster will never measure up to reality...thus the frustration and tangles of those who believe that being "really real" is something anybody can do, with or without God.

P.S. can you change your commenting to allow people in who do not have a blogger account? I keep forgetting my password and then can't comment until I dig it up :(

10:03 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Susan... Welcome. Just wondering, do you have a blog? Tell me more about you (the authentic you ;-)

I'm sorry about the safeguard, not allowing anonymous comments. It's just that I prefer not to get overloaded with spam, and I also like to promote community here. (Anonymous comments kind of allow invisibility, which makes community elusive.) Anyway, I'm so happy you're here. And these days I actually put my passwords either in my journal or in my address book. To think, the blogosphere has infiltrated the paperwork of my life!

And I like that idea about authorship. It's interesting, because I'm an author (and really all bloggers are too) and I see how my words carry both my imprint and the imprint of those who take them and interpret them.

11:24 AM  

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