Often, when I meet with someone I don’t know, I ask them the question “Who are you?” It’s interesting to see their responses.
I’m not doing this as a game. I want to know who they are. I’m open to listening to however much they want to reveal about themselves.
Are they an “authentic” person?
The word “authentic” comes from the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” We use it in the old word “auto-mobile,” which means, literally, “self-driven.” “Authentic” connotes “real.” Are you authentic? Are you a real person?
The biblical opposite of an authentic person is a “hypocrite.” This Greek word was used to refer to actresses and actors. You could translate “hypocrite” as “someone who wears an actor’s mask.”
Hypocrisy has nothing to do with imperfection. We’re all imperfect. Hypocrisy concerns not being authentic, not being real, like being an abuser in your own home but wearing a mask of politeness in public.
Hypocrisy is acting on the outside what you are not on the inside.
Hypocrisy in parents produces anger, bitterness, and cynicism in children. Authenticity engenders endearment. Hypocrisy creates an illusion about one’s self; authenticity owns one’s self, and lives it out before others, especially those closest to you. Authenticity is especially seen in the home.
Hypocrisy is acting, authenticity is freedom. It takes a lot of energy to live hypocritically. Acting is hard work. Acting is bondage to a persona.
When Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” part of the freedom includes taking off the heavy mask of one’s false self and letting Christ shine through the real you. You and I are not perfect, but we can be truthful, loving, and real.
For good stuff on authenticity see Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity.