Why do we care so much about people being real or authentic?

In answer to Quora question: "Why do we care so much about people being real or authentic?"

Thanks for the A2A.

In my view authenticity (or genuineness) is a moral as well as aesthetic characteristic, and is akin to integrity and transparency in contrast to attitudes and behaviors which deceive, or are synthetic and shallow, or are simply dishonest in emotional as well as intellectual and factual ways. Consider that there is emotional honesty, intellectual honesty, artistic honesty, factual honesty and even spiritual honesty, and all of these are valued both culturally and have proven to be prosocial traits that enable improved evolutionary fitness for us highly social and interdependent humans. Thus many spiritual traditions encourage us to find our True Self, just as our fellow artists will encourage us to find our authentic creative voice, and our closest friends and family (and any competent psychotherapist) will encourage us to be emotionally honest with ourselves and with them, and a well-educated person will expect us to be intellectually honest - adhering to certain guidelines of critical thought or scientific reasoning - when discussing complex topics. Thus if we avoid such authenticity we will be perceived as either superficial or a fraud - someone who does not really know what we are talking about, or who isn't in touch with our underlying emotions and motivations, or whose identity and persona are constructed from expedient social conventions rather than actual experience or a depth of self-awareness.

However, although authenticity is an almost universal spiritual, artistic, philosophical, therapeutic and scientific standard, it is certainly not a culturally universal standard. In some cultures, the ability to deceive other people is considered clever and valuable; just examine some of the folklore from around the globe, or the practices of advertising and marketing in Western capitalism, or the writings and practices of Gurdjieff and his followers, or the deceptions and dishonesty of everyone from politicians and televangelists to used car salesmen and people in bars who want to get laid. I would say that culture often persuades people to abandon authenticity and integrity so that they can achieve short-term "successes." In the long term, however, authenticity and integrity lead to a much deeper, more enduring and more profound relationships, and a much deeper, more enduring and more profound fullness of being.

From Psalm 7:
"Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends."

My 2 cents.


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