We live in a world of masks. Have you noticed? Most of us keep our true feelings and circumstances hidden. Instead of portraying ourselves honestly, we project happy, smiling faces. We wear our bright eyes and “everything’s perfect” attitudes like a mask. Let me give you a few examples.
- You’re upset at your friend, but instead of risking conflict, you pretend everything’s fine.
- You could really use some help from your church small group as you face your mom’s illness. Just receiving a simple meal would be a blessing. But instead of asking for support, you pressure yourself to cover all the bases of your normal routine.
- Perhaps your husband doesn’t hold the same faith those you gather with each Sunday. Instead of sharing with a few trusted friends and asking for prayer, you make excuses about why he didn’t attend again this week.
- You have sin and shame in your past and you’re not about to tell a single soul.
We can easily justify the reasons we wear masks and portray a facade. See if any of these reasons resonate:
- We feel that we need to protect those we love. For instance, when something is troubling, we might feel we’re protecting our kids by hiding our worry. We don’t want them to fret, so we carry the burden alone.
- We can’t bear the thought of confrontation. We’d rather swallow every drop of pain ourselves than initiate a discussion that might become an argument.
- We want to feel accepted and loved. Deep down we believe that if the truth were exposed, our friends, neighbors and even family would reject us.
Our World Values Uniformity
Our world values uniformity. The more we look like everyone else with hair styles, clothing trends, opinions, and political ideologies, the more we feel accepted. In a world of conformity, love feels conditional. Relationships seem fragile – nearly always on the brink of disintegration. If we say the wrong thing at a dinner party or wear the wrong blouse to church, we fear that particular friendships might crumble.
Culture has a way of making those with unique looks or moral standards feel like outcasts – almost as unwelcome aliens. Magnifying the problem, the media hangs ugly titles on people with differing opinions. For example, if I support life in the womb and oppose abortion, I’m labeled “anti-woman” for not protecting her right to choose. While the media has misinterpreted my motivation, it’s more comfortable for me to quietly avoid confrontation than to defend my position and speak what’s really on my heart. Rather than risk rejection, we do whatever it takes to look like everyone else. The problem is, we’re portraying a lie.
God Created Individuals
God created individuals. He values originality. He gave each of us varying looks, pasts, and ways of thinking. If you look closely, even the right and left sides of our faces are asymmetrical. It’s the Creator of the universe Who made them that way. We are noticeably different from others, yet we try to cover up our originality.
All of us have things we’re not proud of, imperfections in our physical appearance, or thoughts and ideas that sharply differ from those around us. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve disappointed and hurt others and we’ve been deeply hurt ourselves. God wants to use our pasts for His glory, yet we’ve boxed up our stories, placing them on a high shelf where they can never be reached.
Imagine the possibilities
It’s our personal histories and no-so-pretty situations that make us who we are. Honest testimonies offer the most hope to hurting hearts. That is, if we share the truth.
Think through this with me. What if we took off our masks and showed the world who we really are? What if we walked confidently, knowing we are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord? What if we allowed the beauty of God’s glory to shine through us? What if God used our pain to encourage someone else? What if our story could offer freedom to others in pain?
I believe we can make a difference to others and embrace God’s best in our own lives if we stop allowing the enemy to hold us in bondage of shame and insecurity. I believe that we can face our fears and embrace honesty.
How to Reveal the Real You
Here are 5 practical steps to remove masks and reveal the real you:
- Ask the Lord to provide a trusted companion. Maybe she’s a mentor or the one who sits next to you in Bible study each week. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you into a gradual, truthful and honest relationship with her.
- Embrace your identity in Christ. Personally, when I begin to struggle with insecurity, I turn to the Word of God to remind me who God says I am. I’ve created printable notecards that help my meditation and focus. You’re free to download, print, and share them. I pray they bless you mightily.
- Realize when people reject your views, they are not rejecting you personally. I know. It feels personal. But when we embrace our identity in Christ (see point 2), and know who we are in Him, it helps keep the perspective that it’s about more than me.
- Know you’re not alone. There are many others in your circle of friends or in your church congregation that struggle with the same things you do. Like you, they may feel too intimidated to admit their pasts. Statistics in the U.S. show that nearly 50% of people, whether inside or outside of the church, have adultery or emotional infidelity in their past (or present). Nearly 30% of all women, including those in our church families, have had one if not multiple abortions. Yet when we consider our past sin, we believe we’re the only one who could have done such a thing. That’s simply not true. You’re not alone in this. Better still, you’re redeemed and forgiven by Jesus Himself.
- Start small. Share your story with a trusted friend – one who you’re certain will not gossip or betray your trust. Your story is part of your testimony and in time, the Lord may choose to use it for Kingdom purposes. But I don’t recommend that you confess every sin over the public-address system at a filled-to-capacity stadium. Start in small circles and follow the Lord’s lead as you consider blessing others with your story.
Let’s make an agreement, shall we? Let’s commit ourselves to walking in the freedom of the truth. It’s the truth, after all, that sets us free (John 8:32). Let’s refuse to allow the enemy of our souls to hold us captive to the bondage of sin and insecurity. We belong to Christ. He will use our testimony to accomplish Kingdom purposes and bring victory.
Cathy McIntosh is the author of Victorious: Finding Triumph when Hope Seems Lost and Finding Joy in the Journey. She serves as the Director of Women’s Ministries of Purpose Church in Firestone, Colorado and blogs at www.strengthenedbytheword.com. To hear more from Cathy or receive a free, sample chapter of her newest book, Victorious, sign up for her newletter here.
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