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What Does It Really Mean To Be “Authentic”?

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I’ll never forget one day in particular as a high school student, walking through the hallway of my church and my youth pastor saying, “Hey, Emily! How are you?” I wasn’t having a stellar day, yet out of habit, I plastered a smile on my face and replied, “Hey! I’m good. How are you?” Immediately recognizing I was not “good”, I was faced with a decision: would I protect my answer with a glossy filter, or would I scrub my filter-layered answer clean and share the truth?

In that moment, I faced a crossroads I’ve experienced along many different points in my becoming story. It’s far too easy to plaster filters on our lives—covering up the acne breakouts you’re wondering why you still get in your mid-twenties; masking a not-so-vibrant photo with a picture-perfect Insta filter; consuming obsessive amounts of coffee to hide the fact that you didn’t get a full night’s sleep; texting a million happy face emojis to that friend who hurt your feelings to hide that fact that you really do feel hurt, but don’t want to intensify the situation; posting on social media you’re having the best night ever when you’re really irritated you’ve seen pictures plastered on Facebook of your friends having a GNO without you; spraying febreeze frantically inside your car before carpooling with a friend to hide the fact that, well, it doesn’t smell so fresh; playing it cool when the guy you’ve been crushing on asks another girl out on a date to mask the fact that your heart is breaking just a little bit inside… we have multiple moments each day (ahem, every hour) when filter-covered life infiltrates our stories. And are all filters bad? No—making your car smell good is definitely a good thing! The danger comes when we cover who we are with a filtered layer of who we think we should be. As a result, when we live a filtered life, we miss out on being who God designed us to be. 

That day in high school, faced with answering a simple question, I discovered that #NoFiltered living is best lived in throwing out your default, safe answer, and sharing what’s really going on in your world. Debating my answer, I stopped in my tracks. I looked my youth pastor in the eyes and said, “Actually… I’m not so good today.” I didn’t offer an explanation and he didn’t ask for one… in fact, I don’t even remember what he said—if anything—after that. But I’ll never forget that I peeled back the filter and authentically shared the truth.

Authenticity is just that… recognizing the moments you’re not choosing to be who God made you to be and course correcting, making a 180 degree turn and choosing to be her instead of faking it. That, my friend, is choosing to lace up your warrior boots and fight to become who God made you to be.

Life’s not perfect. We’re not perfect. I’m not perfect… and I never will be. What I’m discovering is that I don’t need to compete with that girl on social media or make my life look like a pretty version of what I think success is. I just need to be me. That is success.

So, does living unfiltered, mean you literally walk around 100% unfiltered, saying anything that pops into your mind and doing whatever you feel like doing, not caring what those around you experience? Not at all. Living authentically is rooted in wisdom, knowing who you are and Whose you are. As we’ll continue to unpack in this Blog Series together, there is wisdom in not always sharing everything with everyone. Sometimes the best unfiltered thing you can do is choosing to hold your tongue, not tweeting that opinion, texting that response, posting that photo, going to that event, hanging out with that friend, or saying “yes” to that opportunity. Sometimes the most authentic thing you can do is say “no” because it’s the best decision for you.

So on the days that aren’t so good, I’m choosing to not cover up my bleeding heart. That doesn’t mean I shout from the rooftops, “Hello world, my day stinks!” and turn my Instagram feed into a cry fest; however, it does mean that the people in my world will be invited into what’s taking place inside my mind and heart, and in sharing, I’m not only giving the world… but I’m giving myself… the gift of #NoFiltered living, choosing to be me.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Galatians 6:4-5, The Message


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