Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
The need for validation is a powerful drug.
In today’s world, it often leads contrive a public profile not entirely realistic. A recent social media meme depicts a well-groomed cat sitting primly for the camera. The caption on the photo says, “Your profile pic.” The next picture is of the same cat, wild-eyed and frazzled. The caption reads, “The photo you are tagged in.”
Most of us who use social media eventually have at least one awful moment when our carefully constructed public image is shattered by a bad hair day immortalized by a “friend.” As technology gets better at chronicling our daily lives, it gets harder to control what others see about us.
It’s not that we want to deceive others. At least, not totally. We just want their approval, their validation of who we are. None of us likes to have our weaknesses and flaws revealed to the world. We want to impress the people who impress us. We think that the carefully constructed message we present to them will draw them to us.
We forget that in doing that, we distance ourselves from others and from reaching people in the darkest moments of their lives.
I hate to admit this, but I secretly felt smug years ago when Martha Stewart was arrested for obstructing justice and lying to investigators about insider trading on the stock market. Instead of being happy for her because she built a fantastic empire, I felt intimated by her. She was perfect. She made me feel inadequate.
My life was too messy to worry about how to fold a fitted sheet, make candles, or keep basil fresh. I needed someone who walked the edge of disaster every day. I longed to talk to another person who understood my struggles, who suffered through similar trials, who found answers to share with me.
I needed authenticity.
Being authentic doesn’t mean being crude, rude, or raw. It doesn’t mean dumping every sordid detail of our problems on anyone who will listen. It’s not about being the loudest voice on the block.
It’s about being vulnerable, resisting the need to impress others. An authentic faith listens before speaking and is willing to look the fool to encourage someone who’s hurting.
I want to know people who act the same way whether they are on the stage or in my living room. I need to see faith lived out loud in gentleness, holiness, and transparency. What impresses me is someone who sits with the new person at church, who gives without announcing it, who isn’t afraid to be the only one to respond to the altar call.
Only a secure person can live an authentic faith. When we find our identity in Christ, we don’t need to have the applause of men. When we are secure in God’s unconditional approval, we can let down our guard and let others see our humanity. There’s no need to impress, no fear in being ourselves.
Be true to your God. Let others see the bad hair. Be real. Be yourself.