The Danger of Authenticity

Why being "real" with others isn't always the best choice

Recently, while checking into a hotel, I was making small talk with the person behind the counter. While she was finding my reservation, I casually asked her, "How's your day going?"

She responded with, "Well, I really don't want to be here!" and then muttered something under her breath.

I asked the question, but certainly wasn't expecting that answer. I guess she was just being authentic.

The brutal cost of undiscerning honesty

What would your life look like if you were absolutely honest with everyone? How would you respond when your friend asks you if you think she's fat (and she has put on a few pounds)? Or what would be your honest words the moment your husband finds out he got passed over for a promotion? Or your children asked if you had a favorite child?

Being truthful is different than being brutally honest.

In today's culture, there is a lot of emphasis on "being authentic"—just saying it like it is. I understand why we feel so strongly about the quality of being forthright. Our parents' and grandparents' generations, at times, harbored family secrets, made "polite" comments that compromised truth, and shied away from discussing anything unpleasant. Sometimes we Christians are guilty of backing away from truths that desperately need to be spoken. But just as often, we speak the "authentic" truth without the discernment and love that should distinguish us as Jesus' disciples. Being truthful is different than being brutally honest. There are a lot of hurtful and destructive things said in the guise of authenticity.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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