I was thinking this morning about what it means to “be real”, or to be open and transparent, presenting yourself to others as you are, with no pretenses. I don’t think it’s really encouraged by the standard culture of society. It’s like lately I went through the interview process of a job I’ve applied for, and with these kinds of things it’s all about proving your worth to someone, framing yourself in ways that make you appear attractive to them. I think we do this throughout our lives, on many levels, within all sorts of relationships, but in the context of a job interview it is quite clear to see. We put on a mask. We want that interviewer to see only our positive traits, and anything we feel is a negative must be avoided or twisted into a positive light. We are trying to manipulate and design the portrait of ourselves that we are presenting to that person. This self-portrait is a painting of who we think we should be, and it’s rare in this world to come across a person who isn’t holding up one of these self-portraits for most of their lives.
I think maybe we do it for survival. I see this in myself. It’s coming from a fear of rejection. If I allow others to see my shortcomings and not see me as attractive, intelligent, or worthy in whatever way, then I might be rejected, or I might be overlooked, I might miss out on something I want, I might not be respected or included, I might not be cool enough for my friends, good enough for that job, I might get dumped by my partner. This can be a very subtle thing and not necessarily easy to spot, but if you think you are not carrying one of these masks, then humbly I would suggest maybe you are just not aware of it.
The result of wearing this mask is that the real you, what is really going on inside, is filtered and processed by this internal judge you’ve created for yourself. No one is allowed to see the real you. This can be terribly lonely because deep down we all want to be truly known and understood, but that can’t happen as we are not allowing ourselves to be known, out of fear. We think we are protecting ourselves, but really we make our life worse as we cut ourselves off emotionally from everyone around us. Deep down we want to be ourselves, but we fear the worst.
I want to say today, for the benefit of me also, that this spirit of fear is a liar! We aren’t protecting or helping ourselves by hiding within the darkness of ourselves. The truth is that other people can generally sniff out pretensions pretty easily, and people actually admire and respect someone who is open and genuine, not afraid to be seen, “what you see is what you get.” If we can just allow ourselves to be seen, to bring whatever is inside out into the light, then we can actually be known in this life, and that’s what we really want. People don’t relate to perfection, they relate to flaws. It’s why we all love a good underdog story! You won’t be left out, you will actually be loved. Being open like this also leads to a natural confidence that people really respond to.
This is what real humility looks like. It’s not that false kind of humility, where we are tiptoeing around being very quiet and timid and polite, as this can be just another self-portrait we’re holding up in front of ourselves. It’s the kind of humility that isn’t too proud to let the world see all our faults and shortcomings. This is the kind of humility we need if we are going to grow as a person, and build in true character. The problem with the mask is we are trying to present ourselves as already perfect, and hiding our faults, even from ourselves, so how can we change or grow?
You have to bring all your rubbish out into the light. Let it be seen, especially by yourself! Bring it out and let God work with it! In the bible, Paul talks about one of his own shortcomings or faults and he prays to God to remove it from him, but God said to him “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Then from that encounter, Paul goes on to say that now he will actually “boast all the more gladly about” his “weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest” on him (2 Corthinians 12:9). He then goes on to say he now actually “delights” in weaknesses! That’s pretty counter-cultural compared to today’s society!
So Paul was happy to be open and transparent, to let others know of his shortcomings, and this is the man who wrote most of the New Testament. If we have this kind of humility, we are in a great place to learn and grow, as we are no longer clinging to the lie that we are already perfect, and we become like a beginner or a child or a sponge. We don’t feel the need to prove ourselves so it is a much more relaxed and liberating way of being. No longer having to try so hard, we can let go a bit. And as Paul was saying, this is a great position to be in, if we want a relationship with God. God doesn’t call the proud or the perfect. If you look through the bible, the people God called were always quite imperfect and full of flaws. They were ordinary people. God can’t really use the proud, and the people that think they already have it all together. Because if your cup is already full, how can you receive any more?
This is also a great source of hope. Our fear tells us that if we allow our weaknesses to be seen, then we will lose out in some way, but in reality, if we have God, then his power is made perfect in our weakness. We will be in the strongest position we have ever been. All we have to do is turn to Him and pray. In humility, we come to him as we are, in our weakness, and invite Him into our lives. Having a friend like Jesus in your life is the biggest advantage you will ever have. Even only a few years ago, I never would have thought I would become a follower of Jesus, but I found out for myself that he wasn’t a fairy-tale, and his perfect love entered into my life in a very real way, and in the presence of his love, all our fears and doubts drop away. Just as a child recognizes his mother’s voice, even through a busy crowd, we recognize the love of our father. Seek him out, because he wants you to come back to him. When you see his face again, you will just know, and you won’t need any words or explanations. Just by being in his presence, your heart will remember. He is the first and the last. In his love, you were made, and to his love you can return. All you have to do is ask and seek him out. He seeks you too.