the road to authenticity?
There’s been a trend in the last few years talking a lot about the importance of authenticity. Which, of course, is nothing new. Churches have been having conversations about authenticity for the last 10 years at least, seeing that the new generation of adults attending church were turned off by big concerts and light shows that became so popular in the 90s. Brené Brown brought forth to us what living in shame does for our souls, and the culture around us continues to tell us to simply “be who we are, no matter what anyone else says”.
There are good things in this authenticity. For myself, it fed a certain part of my personality in some unhealthy ways. Earlier this year, I took a class where learning my Enneagram type was part of the experience. After I learned my type (I’m a 4) and meeting with a counselor about my test results for that and other personality tests we took, I was broken. The other tests I’d taken were nothing new to me, but learning about how a type 4 views the world and themselves broke me in a way I’m still not sure I can explain or understand.
I’ve learned to be careful about personality test results over the years. They can become a crutch and an easy way for me to explain away my own sin. “That’s how I was wired…” is something I’ve thought to myself a lot while justifying my behavior. The power of learning my Enneagram type has been that it immediately showed me my struggles and my sin. It was powerful. As an already broken by sin person, I was even more broken by the ways I’ve seen myself use my tendency to “be different” (classic type 4 behavior) in a multitude of sinful ways. As Richard Clark, online editor at Christianity Today and podcast host of The Calling, explains it, “It’s a lot like finding out you’re an INFJ except there is… an added self awareness component that comes with some negative feelings.”
He goes on to explain that the negative feelings that come with learning your Enneagram type can be valuable and represent growth. Which I’ve found to be completely true. Since learning my MBTI type (INFJ) it’s merely served as a way to help me process how awesome I am. But the Enneagram has showed me my major areas of needed growth.
I’ve not talked too much about my Enneagram type with those I love and trust, certainly not in the same way I used to proudly proclaim my status as an INFJ. Some of that could be that I haven’t researched it the way I have my MBTI type. The other reason is likely in how it has convicted me. The root of my sin in being a type 4 is intense. It’s not something I want to proudly proclaim.
So what does this have to do with authenticity? Apparently 4s hold authenticity up as some kind of crown jewel in life. For me, it means I do strive for authenticity in relationships and in how I resent myself to the world. But the sinful way it plays out is I tend to sniff out those who are inauthentic and place my judgmental medal of honor on them. Being a type where introspection is a hourly event, I have no reason to expect people to know themselves as well as I know myself. When you know yourself well, you can be more authentic (and even comfortable) with others. As a 4, I tend to dismiss those who haven’t done the same amount of internal work as me, judging them as emotionally immature and even lazy.
The tension in all of this is that we all want to be who we are, right? Even deeper than that, we want to be accepted for who we are. The world is constantly telling us to “just do you.” There is a measure of wisdom in this. But I don’t think that’s enough. The Enneagram showed me that by fully indulging who I am leads to deeply flawed and sinful behavior towards others and myself. There are good and healthy ways for me to “just do me” but that’s not the end of the story.
God loves us for who he made us to be, but he loves us too much to keep us there. We are called to be sanctified, made like Christ, despite our sinful nature. (Because he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Authenticity is not the end of the road in our journey to be ourselves. It’s part of the journey, but it’s not the destination. It’s easier, sure. Which is why we all want to go there first and call it a day. But to deprive ourselves of who we can be by settling for who we are now is simply an adventure in missing the point.