I hate pretending. Really, I hate that I feel like I need to pretend. I sometimes find myself putting on a different face for the group I’m with. Like there’s another version of me. This can happen for a number of reasons and while a few are at least logical (in the workplace, for example) I always walk away feeling just a little gross. I think most of the time it starts off with decent intentions like wanting to make a good first impression. First impressions are incredibly powerful. But speaking and acting like something I’m not, even if it’s not a huge stretch, is exhausting.
Integrity is what is at stake when we’re not allowing ourselves to live with the same attitude all the time. When people think of the word integrity, they often see it as a moral or ethical backbone. Something adhered to even in the toughest of times. This is true but the word has a lot more weight than that. Integrity also refers to the state of being whole or undiminished. All parts of a body working together with their identity in harmony. Physically, when our cells start to work against us they’re called cancerous. Unity of all parts of the whole is essential to health, both physically and emotionally. This applies to families, work, and the church body as well. We all have many roles that require different things at different times. I am a husband, son, brother, friend, coworker, stranger, and church member. These roles are all integral in who I am. But by allowing concern about my perception in these roles to change how I act, I don’t give others the chance for intimacy that allows for a real relationship. I don’t allow myself to be whole and my ability to serve others is severely limited. This also causes stress in my own life that can be incredibly damaging.
When I really take a step back to look at why I feel the need to wear a different mask for each group of people in my life, I really only ever find myself to blame. My family doesn’t need to feel that I’m happy to be around them, they need to know it. My friends lose out when I sweeten my stories as I tell them and place importance in my speech in something I think they’ll be have more interest instead of just speaking from my heart. Having different masks for each group I associate myself with isn’t just a conflict of interest but leads to a conflict within my own heart. Instead of being able to speak with conviction on something, I can find myself searching for the answer that’s appropriate for the person I’m talking to. In turn, this person never truly gets to meet me. I think we can often find ourselves in this position because we feel like we’re not enough on our own. But God sees us as something pretty special. And he’s not interested in how we present ourselves to him. In 1 Samuel 16:7 it says, But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Man. That’s powerful stuff. Jesus sees me for exactly who I am on the inside. And still he cares enough to have paid a price of death for me. He’s seen exactly how spiteful, angry, proud, and vile I can be.. And loves me anyway.