There is a thirst for truth and authenticity in our culture, the likes of which has never been seen before in the history of our country. The extreme polarization of thought and opinion has given rise to some of the most intense debate of which people are capable.
The polarization of the United States is experienced every day through the news headlines, crafted in such a way that they evoke strong opinion and even stronger emotion. The proliferation of fake news, deliberately disseminating misinformation through either broadcast media or social media is now circulated as mainstream. Fake news is written and published in order to mislead or damage others. The word "clickbait" is now moving into common parlance, as people are swayed by these kinds of stories to share, comment or express emotion on social media.
Millennials and members of Gen Z who have grown up with social media, struggle to distinguish what is real and what is not. As seekers of authenticity, they want to live genuinely. According to a presenter at a recent workshop, they have difficulty trusting others and they seek truth. A significant amount of time is spent collecting photos on Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook and creating snapshots of their lives at a given time. Although those moments may seem real, people are selective painting a careful portrait of their ideal self for the world to admire.
In this polarized world in which we live, most people would agree that being fake is a negative thing. Nobody wants to be played or used. Most of us don't trust or warm up to people who come across as phony or false. We try to avoid such people and seek friends and colleagues who are real. How are we to make sense of a world which no longer reports the facts? How are we to sort out what is good, right and most importantly, true? As Catholics, our God in the person of Jesus Christ has told us, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). In this important line from Scripture, Jesus invites his followers of all times to know him who is the truth and through a personal relationship with Him to freedom comes from patterning our lives on him, and the freedom that he is speaking about is freedom from sin.
Jesus' invitation to all of us to know the truth is to intimately know him and allow him to reveal our truest deepest selves to us. Jesus calls his disciples to live genuinely and authentically. He calls us the person we were created to be.
According to human psychology, living authentically means cultivating good self-esteem, listening deeply and embracing one's own vulnerability. It also means communicating one's thoughts, feelings and opinions with the world around us in an honest way. A person who lives authentically can give and receive compliments easily and is guided by an inner voice, rather than the stirrings of the world around him.
For a Christian, to live authentically means to be Gospel-centered rather than me-centered. The search for truth begins with each person living authentically. The journey from me to Christ is a lifelong quest, and the more we travel this road, the more peace we will experience.