Six Obstacles to Catholic Authenticity

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

Why is it difficult to be the same person at work, home, church and with our friends?  I have observed this problem for several years, but lately I have become more aware of the challenges people have with consistently being “real.”   In a few recent discussions with friends, I received blank stares and perceived a lot of discomfort when I advocated for being the same person at all times and for being transparent about our lives with others.  Why is authenticity, especially Catholic authenticity, so uncomfortable?

My instincts and own experience lead me to think the root cause of this occurred for many of us at a young age.  The first time we felt pressure to “fit in” with a particular group in school, we began down the path of conformity that only accelerates as we grow older.  In college, we may have heard from our professors (or our parents) that we need to keep work, faith and our personal lives separate.  We may have feared being judged or criticized in those early jobs for sharing anything personal which only hardens into a compartmentalized mindset as we grow in our careers.  I want to believe that deep down most of us desire to consistently be our real selves, but don’t know how to get there.

Logic should tell me that it is inevitably harmful to suppress my true self for a sustained period of time, yet many people perceive there is no other option.  Do you love being a parent, but feel awkward about discussing your kids at work?  Do you desire to spend more time with your family, but worry about speaking about this with your boss?  Is your Catholic faith important to you, but perceived intolerance among friends and work colleagues keeps you from discussing it?  Have you ever been faced with a difficult ethical or moral dilemma, but remained silent or chose the easy way out rather than advocate for doing the right thing?

Obstacles to Authenticity

Let’s address some of the obstacles that may prevent us from being authentic Catholics.  I am making a base assumption that you agree with me on some level that authenticity is important and that many (though not all) people have a desire to be more open, transparent and authentic.   Here are a few of the obstacles that prevent this from happening:

  • There could be a lack of self-awareness.  Do we even know that there is a problem?
  • Fear of people not liking the real us.  Fear of not fitting in.   Fear of being judged.  Fear of persecution for our religious beliefs.  Fear of not moving up the career ladder if we don’t fit the right corporate mold.
  • Lack of confidence in our opinions.  Lack of faith in our convictions.  Lack of courage to defend the truth.  Lack of knowledge about our faith.
  • Attachment to an income level and lifestyle that requires unhealthy compromises.
  • Conforming to society’s march towards political correctness, universal tolerance and acceptance of things which are in direct conflict with our faith, values and principles.
  • Relaxing our standards because it easier to go along with the crowd than take a stand.

This list may be as painful for you to acknowledge as it is for me or you may have a different list.  The questions I have been asking are unsettling, but necessary if a more authentic life is to be pursued and embraced.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Embracing the REAL You

Have you ever replayed pivotal moments in your life over in your head and regretted your actions or words?  Ever feel a twinge when your mouth said one thing and your heart/head felt another?  Perhaps these feelings are your conscience trying to get your attention.  It could be the Holy Spirit.  Maybe, just maybe, it is time to consistently let our true selves be seen by others.  But, is there an upside to having the courage to embrace who we really are?

The answer is a simple yes, because we are made for Heaven and not this place.  We are here to help ourselves, our families and everyone else get to Heaven.

I am writing this article from the perspective of my Catholic faith, although I believe anyone can find value in what I am saying.  As a Catholic reaching out to other Catholics, I challenge all of us (including myself) to show real courage and step up in our defense of Christ and His Church.  The Church is under siege on multiple fronts and is often attacked for its unflinching defense of Christ’s teaching.  We can no longer remain passive and be Catholic only at Mass on Sundays, but somebody different the rest of the week.  Consider the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput in Render Unto Caesar“Don’t lie. If we say we’re Catholic, we need to prove it. America’s public life needs people willing to stand alone, without apologies, for the truth of the Catholic faith and the common human values it defends. One person can make a difference – if that individual has a faith he or she is willing to suffer for” (pg 197).  We can and should make a real difference through our prayers, our voices, our writing and at the ballot box.

After you read this reflection, please prayerfully consider if you need to be more authentically Catholic.  I don’t know many of us who couldn’t stand some improvement!   Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide our actions and give us courage.   Let’s be joyful and set a good example for others by being unafraid to be our true selves.   What is required of us is not easy, but our Lord will help us if we offer up our burdens and concerns to Him in prayer.  He gave His life for us on the Cross.  This sacrifice requires a faithful and courageous response from His followers.

With confidence and purpose, with our ultimate destination in mind, let’s all try to be a little more authentic today.


Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications.  The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.

Randy Hain’s exciting second book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was  released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012.   Along the Way was voted Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012.  His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. His newest book, LANDED! Proven Job Search Strategies for Today’s Professional was released in December 2013 by Serviam Press.

All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or www.liguori.org.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker?  Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.


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9 Comments

  1. My biggest problem comes from my family. I am trying very hard to live my faith but a lot of the Church’s teachings on marriage and divorce have gotten me in big trouble with the people I love most-namely my Mother and Mother-in-law. My Mother, who was widowed a few years ago and is in her 70′s is now living with a married man in his 70′s! When I tried to gently raise my concerns about this new union, my Mother got very angry with me. What to do?

  2. Great article! Thank you so much! As a devout Catholic, family man and business man, I find the principles to ring extraordinarily true. A true leader cannot be a leader in only one aspect of life but in all. I’ve recently attended Landmark’s curriculum for leadership and the principles of authenticity you discuss are exactly what is taught. I have found these concepts to be very powerful in helping me to be courageous in expressing my Catholicism to my fullest potential.

  3. this is very pertinent for me this week—thank you! I’m forming a new business relationship/friendship with a woman who is evangelical Christian, “used to be catholic” and it’s important I stay true to who I am even though her opinions may be louder/stronger. I find if I am authentically catholic from the very beginning people accept that about me and respect that throughout our relationships. it’s difficult to backtrack without sounding defensive.

  4. We must strive to also show authentic Christianity, as many non-Catholics fail to understand that we are followers of Christ, in the Catholic Church tradition. This is what I have seen and heard since becoming Catholic through RCIA nearly 20 years ago. The Catholic Church will call more people by emphasizing Jesus Christ as our primary source in all things.

  5. All of these are very real phenomena and yet are subsumed under the classic Catholic understanding of our chief threats: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

    All the structures of sin, sins, and occasions of sin brought to us from other people constitute “the world”. The world either entices us with carrots or threatens us with ‘sticks’.

    Meanwhile all emotional, psychological and spiritual trials we undergo interiorly with our own particular weaknesses, vices, and foibles constitute “the flesh”. Even without the world threatening us, we can often be our own worse enemies.

    And finally, the devil exists and often seeks to trip us up, to make us stumble. As a finite creature he or ‘they’ the demons are not omniscient and they are not omnipresent. But they do ‘ride herd’ on us occasionally – as that’s all it takes coupled with our own concupiscence and the impact of the world… chiefly they work on our emotions and imagination – either suggesting terrors to flee from or suggesting pleasing fictions to seek out. Both are fantasies that take us away from God’s will for our lives.

    The solution of course is found in the Church, in our own spiritual maturity in our relationship with God (and his friends, the saints), and in entrusting ourselves to Divine protection.

    We exist in a state of war here on earth and our lives only take on significance to the degree we’re aware of this cosmic reality. Our ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in any context here below is of incredible importance in the great cosmic context. To a very real degree the moment of temptation is a fog of de-contextualization where we cease having God, and God’s will clear before our hearts or minds and instead are confronted with just smaller, apparent goods “here and now” and are so tested to see if we will opt for the immediate ‘good’ or forgo it.

    It is in forgoing the immediate pleasure for the sake of the hidden God and the future good that is what fasting is all about….and what prayer is all about. To build up those habits allows us to enter into the bigger picture of reality and thus be more able to see the world’s threats or enticements for what they are…and to see our own weaknesses and the devil’s prompts for what they are.

    Our virtue matters for our long term good and the good of untold number of people perhaps as yet unborn.

    Look to those enslaved by the world, flesh and devil….they simultaneously declare the immediate gratification to be of immense value…and the long term consequences to be of little value! Thus the immediate gratification of appetites (lust, gluttony, laziness…) are pursued with great alacrity and proclaimed as great goods to be seized and defended at all cost…and yet they also claim that the long term repercussions are of little importance. That ultimately they themselves are not as valuable as the immediate high. It’s a de-personalization in the name of being ‘free’.

  6. Randy,
    Another great blog post. You have given me much to think about, especially regarding my fear of being “to public” about my faith. Articles like this are why I visit this site every day.

    1. Thank you George. We are grateful for your support of Integrated Catholic Life and your kind words.

      God bless!

      Randy Hain

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