I’ll never forget sitting in my counselor’s office about two years ago, and talking to him about how I didn’t think I was being “authentic” because I wasn’t specifically speaking and writing about something I was struggling with.

He said to me, “Wait, you feel like you’re not being totally authentic because you haven’t told every single person every single thing about your life?” To which I responded, “Yes, isn’t that the way it works?”

He quickly corrected me, and reminded me that there’s a huge difference between being “authentic” and being “transparent.”

Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of work in this area of my life and I’ve also discovered that a lot of other people are really confused about the difference between the two.

Many confuse transparency with authenticity, and think that if they don’t share the same thing with everyone, then they are not authentic or real. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s a simple way to distinguish between these two separate ideas:

Authenticity = Sharing genuinely = The way you share

Transparency = Sharing deeply = The things you share

Authenticity does not require the same level of transparency in every relationship.

The truth is, you will (and should) have different relationships with different people. My relationship with you is likely very different than my relationship with one of my friends who I’ve walked through life with for 15 years, and see and talk with several times a week. With you, I should always be authentic but probably not always transparent. That level of honesty and vulnerability is reserved for those relationships where trust, history, love, respect, safety, time, and ongoing conversations are all present.   

You see, I had bought into the idea that to be authentic, you have to also share everything with everyone. That’s simply not true, and I can tell you first-hand that if you try to go that route, it will lead to you hiding—you’re never going to feel safe sharing everything with everyone. Just because we have unique relationship with each person, doesn’t mean it’s fake or that either one of us is not being authentic. We all connect in different ways and at different levels.

So my encouragement to you as you send tweets, write blog posts, prepare sermons, post pictures, and interact with different groups of people throughout your day:

Always be authentic.

Be varying degrees of transparent.

Another way you can say that is, be authentic with everyone and transparent with a few.

And my promise to you as we journey forward: I’ll always try to be honestly authentic with you, but don’t expect me to be completely transparent. Not here. That level of discussion, confession, detail, or brutal honesty will be saved for the handful of people that God has graciously placed directly and intimately into my life.