Service Trumps Authenticity

By Roscoe Lilly

You’ve probably heard someone say it’s important to be authentic to who you really are. You should be the person you were designed to be and not try to be someone else. Authenticity is the only thing that matters.

It’s hard to disagree. I mean, who wants to be around a fake person?

Authenticity is important … to a point. I’ve noticed that more and more, authenticity is being used as the go-to excuse for insecurities. It has become the ultimate trump card. It’s kind of like someone saying “God told me to.” How do you refute that? Any attempt at offering advice sounds like you are putting yourself in opposition with God.

Any attempt to push back against someone’s “being authentic to who they are” sounds as though you aren’t very accepting. Often when insecurity is in the mix, you’ll hear phrases such as “That’s not who I am”; “That’s not my personality”; or “I’m not feeling it.”

The problem is not who they are. The problem is who their insecurities are making them be. You know it’s insecurity when it keeps them from who God had in mind—being the best version of themselves.

Our insecurities and our circumstances have the ability to make us feel a certain way. Those feelings are authentic, but those feelings aren’t who you are.

When you choose to put aside how your insecurities or circumstances are making you feel to serve someone else—that’s love. It’s called being selfless. You’re putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own (Philippians 2:3).

Let me give a couple of illustrations from my church world.

Imagine that a vocalist in our band had a rough week. She received some bad news that has genuinely got her down. For her to be authentic to her feelings, she would be frowning, mumbling the words, and just not very expressive while she sings on stage. But if she recognizes that circumstances and how the feelings of insecurity they create are not the same thing as her true self, she can live from a different place.

A selfless person recognizes the difference. She’s not faking it, she is claiming a higher truth. Despite her feelings, God is still in control. Despite her circumstances, God deserves to be praised. God has promised to bring about good even though now isn’t great. It’s an act of faith to live from a place you’re not in yet.

It’s also an act of love realizing that others may be in a far worse place. She puts her feelings aside to give and help others who have come to church to be inspired and encouraged.

Authenticity that is dictated by your circumstances and emotions creates a slave, not a leader. That kind of authenticity will never help anyone.

One more example.

Imagine someone who isn’t quite expressive in teaching children, but has a heart for kids. He just needs to learn a few skills. That’s something we can work with. It’s always easier to teach skills than to teach values. Because of his love for kids, he is willing to learn new ways to communicate that might not have come naturally for him.

He learns to be more expressive, use props, and pay attention to body language. He recognizes that his body needs to send the same message his mouth is sending. If he is talking about joy, his body language needs to match so there is no disconnect.

He could easily use authenticity as a shield for his insecurities. “That’s just not who I am. I’m an introvert. That doesn’t come naturally for me.” His insecurities would keep children from experiencing the gift of love he has to offer. He worked hard and now is a rock star with the kids!

If you would be honest with yourself, the issue often isn’t authenticity. The issue is that it’s outside of your comfort zone.

When you step outside of your comfort zone to serve someone else, that’s love. When you hide behind authenticity because of insecurities, that’s selfishness.

Your greatest growth and often your greatest contributions will come from moments when you step outside of your comfort zone as an act of love and service to others.

The next time you feel as though someone is asking you to be inauthentic to who you are, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Am I using authenticity as an excuse for my insecurities?
  2. Is this the edge of my comfort zone or the edge of my personhood?
  3. Would putting aside my own preferences help me better serve someone else?

Roscoe Lilly serves as Lead Pastor of NorthStar Church in Albany, New York. This article first appeared on his website,  Follow Roscoe on Twitter @RoscoeLilly

If you are interested in partnering with NorthStar Church or planting in the Albany, NY area, contact Roscoe at