To thine ownself be true–what does that mean? What does it mean to be yourself, no plastic ways, no personas, but to be authentic?
I don’t have final answers about it, but it seems to me that being authentic is connected to aligning ourselves with the way God intended for us to live and I know His design is perfect and beautiful, not self-serving or muddy. I think that to be authentic means walking toward His design, living in simplicity and honesty, not needing props to hold up our image.
An article here on Her.meneutics gives some food for thought:
…my entire life has been a struggle to get out from behind the faces I put on: I want to be perceived as having it all together, as being the perfect wife, as being an intelligent Christian woman, as being compassionate, kind, and inspirational. I have justified my slavery to these goals because they are mostly noble, but the method is entirely wrong. When rooted in a desire to be liked rather than in the spirit of Christ, each one of these “fruits” is an illusion, a fake.
This leads me to my second point about authenticity: It can only be had in Christ. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. . . . The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. You real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. . . . Christ will indeed give you a real personality.”
Lewis makes this statement as one who understands the deceptiveness and destructiveness of sin. Only God knows who we really are — that is, who he created each one of us to be. Sin leads us to construct alternative versions of ourselves, selves we prefer, selves that are more comfortable, selves that bring us the most glory. We may try to construct selves that will honor God, but even our best intentions will be perverted when working off a manmade blueprint.
In Christ, however, we become our true selves. God opens our eyes to our sins, to the self-deception, to the things in our lives that are not of him. Then he transforms us, conforming us to the only perfect human being who ever lived. In Christ, we stop operating according to the constraints of social expectations, personal insecurities, and lies. Rather than live in ways that are subhuman, we finally live in a manner worthy of God’s vision for humanity.
That is authenticity. It is a “human being fully alive” (Irenaeus). It is not built in a day, nor is it maintained easily. Like humility, realizing we are closer to it ensures that we will lose it. Yet the nature of authenticity is also good news. Because authenticity cannot be faked, because it does not, ironically, rest in our natural selves, our only option for being truly authentic people is to lose ourselves, casting ourselves on Christ’s mercy, joyfully acknowledging that Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness. The more we realize our desperate state and need of God’s grace, the more authentically human we will be.