A Note from Kelly King: I first heard Sheila talk about living authentically among a small group of LifeWay Women trainers. Her words struck a chord in my heart because I’ve struggled with how our culture values the word “authentic.” I’m glad she is sharing her thoughts with us today.
For some time, “authenticity” has been one of those buzz words that has been on my radar. I’ve found myself wrestling with what it really means and what type of authenticity really makes a difference because I truly believe as you live, so shall you lead.
The problem with authenticity is our perspective of it. Anyone can claim it and benefit from the positive assumptions that most of us make about the word. Transparent. Genuine. Trustworthy. All good, right? Well, it depends.
We think that someone who is being “authentic” (usually applied to showing negative emotions) is letting their real feelings be known. We believe this to be a good thing—rare and indicative of trustworthiness. But what’s on the surface can be deceiving. There can be turbulence beneath the surface. And sometimes, what comes out is not edifying when shared.
The reality is there is nothing inauthentic about putting on a brave face and soldiering on when you are remaining true to your goal. Being authentic doesn’t mean we can’t process internally—rejecting pity parties and acknowledging that we’re blessed even when we are wrestling with our feelings.
But there is another facet of authenticity: strategic authenticity. This type of authenticity is about being true to a goal. It is clarifying for yourself what the criteria is for you to be real.
Merriam-Webster defines “authentic” as:
- a: worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact; b: conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features; c: made or done the same way as an original
- not false or imitation: real, actual
- true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character; is sincere and authentic with no pretensions
So what does this look like when it comes to living and leading? I came up with my own practical thoughts on what authenticity looks like when it is going to make a difference in my life and as I lead.
Authenticity comes when I have the courage to let others see who the “real me” is in regard to how I am becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
It flows out of a journey of continuous transformation as I let God use the messy stuff to make me more like the Master and Him more meaningful to others.
It comes out of my own personality, spirit, and character reflecting the ongoing process of a truthful and trusting relationship with the Father with no pretensions.
So to me what is so impactful in life and ministry is strategic authenticity—staying true to the goal. For me the goal is to intentionally live in fellowship every day with the Master in such a way as to fulfill my divine purpose of becoming more like Jesus and making Him more meaningful to those in my sphere of influence, all for the glory of God.
Having clarified that real authenticity is asking myself if I am staying true to that goal is so freeing. It keeps me from feeling like a phony until God chooses to have me reveal the messy stuff. But it also keeps me from being passive when I find myself on the brink of covering up rather than revealing areas that should not be part of my real life in Jesus Christ for the sake of looking like I have it all together.
Let me encourage you to clarify your goal for yourself and use it as the criteria for authentically living out your faith, thereby leading others to do the same.
Romans 8:5-6 (MSG): “Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.”
Sheila has been involved in women’s ministry for over 35 years, serving as Director of Women’s Ministry for over 20 years in the local church. She is presently on staff at Heritage Community Church, Fruitland Park, Florida as Director of Administration as well as serving as Director of Women’s Ministry. She is the founder of Real Living Ministries, a speaking, teaching, and leadership development ministry to women. Sheila is also a contributing author to Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, Revised and Expanded edition. Sheila has appeared on numerous Christian radio and television broadcasts, including The 700 Club and 100 Huntley Street. She is the author of Beyond Chaos, published by NavPress and is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She and her husband, John, are the parents of two and proud grandparents of seven.