On the way to work this morning, I heard a new word. It Is, in fact, not a word but needs to be. During a Sports Radio 1310 the Ticket commercial break, they ran a new ad for SOTA Weight Loss Centers. They rolled out the word “authendacity.” It is a mashup of two good words, one of which is a raging buzzword: AUTHENTICITY and AUDACITY.
We hear so much today, especially in Christian circles, about being authentic. This is, we know, the opposite of religious fluff or showmanship. It is the resistance against putting on airs or pretending to be something you are not.
You know how we do. I grew up in church and I can tell you it can be daunting to try and live up to the halo-wearing, picture-perfect people adorning its pews. Everybody seems so well sorted out, so on top of their lives.
I do think it is right and healthy to suck it up and be on your best behavior in such places. Just because you don’t carry the Sunday morning argument with your spouse into the sanctuary, that does not automatically classify you as fake or hypocritical. I was raised by folks who thought it best not to air out your dirty laundry and I do not believe they were wrong about that. Not every conversation is right in every situation.
This goes for work as well as church.
Still, how many among us have trouble being ourselves because we are so busy trying to be something or someone else. If you strive to perfectly emulate someone else, the best you can ever hope to be is a cheap imitation. Every imitation, by definition, is cheap. It is a knockoff. Pleather will never be leather. Sidewalk Guccis are not Guccis. If something is reputed to be “just as good as…” something else, that is typically a sure sign it is not.
One of the best mentoring moments of my formative years as a preacher came during a Homiletics class at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. We had a guest lecturer, a renowned pastor from a large church in Detroit, tell us, “Find your voice, Snowflake…the one God gave you.”
Now, Snowflakes have taken it in the shorts in recent years, but through no fault of their own. Scientists tell us that each snowflake is its own thing, unique.
Can every snowflake really be different?
The short answer is yes, snowflakes really are different from one another. You might find some that are exceedingly similar (particularly at the beginning of a flake’s development) but fully formed snowflakes are indeed structurally different, if only by tiniest of degrees
When I was a boy Baptist, my grandfather and pastor would bring in guest speakers four or five times per year. When I first heard Jessie Simon preach in his fiery, one-act-play delivery, I wanted to be him and I practiced preaching just like that. He was way more than bluster. He was substance and style. Then, I heard A.V. Henderson preach. Man, that guy! He walked to the pulpit preaching and never exceeded 20 minutes in his delivery. He would give you more in those 20 minutes than you could unpack in a week. Then, I heard the inimitable B.R. Lakin. He was mountain glory and homespun wisdom, wit and insight, elegance in overalls (not literally in overalls). He was majestic. Hey, one could do worse than being another Lakin! But then, I heard S.M. Lockridge, the poetic preacher behind the sermon made famous by a million Easter videos, Sunday’s Coming. There was R. G. Lee, the master storyteller and preacher of Payday Someday. And so many others, some understated, others flamboyant, but each dynamic and powerful.
It got so I didn’t know who to be until the aforementioned Detroit preacher, Truman Dollar, told me, as if I were the only one he was addressing and not just another face in a class of 200 aspiring orators, “Be yourself. God did not call you to be someone else.”
Peter was not the educated intellect Paul was. Paul was not the firebrand Peter was. Hard to imagine the church without either of them, isn’t it?
This article is not about preaching or preachers, though. It is about life. A businessman can learn a ton from the giants of the industry, the trailblazers, the difference-makers, the money-makers. But he cannot be them. There may be thousands of men named Henry Ford, but there was really only one. Only one Elon Musk. Only one Jeff Bezos. Only one Oprah Winfrey.
Can we learn from them? Sure!
But you will never be what you were meant to be until you have the audacity to be authentic. Dare to be yourself. Be the best version of yourself. Be informed and inspired. Be hungry and content. Be all you can be. But do not lose yourself along the way. When the whole world is desperate to blend in, to avoid being “canceled” for not conforming, being true to yourself can be daunting. Failing to do so is soul-crushing.
When you look in the mirror, see the person God meant when He made you in the first place. See the snowflake that you were meant to be. That is where you find your needle in the human haystack. That is authendacity.