Who are you, really? That can be a frightening question. As we grow into adulthood, we become adept at playing the game of presenting a carefully prepared image of the person we wish we were. And, too often, there is a lot of distance from reality. Not long ago, I listened to a conversation in which a man talked about his ‘accomplishments.’ Wow, he was impressive, except I knew better. What he described bore little resemblance to the truth. Many years ago, a person worked in our organization. His resume claimed some degrees that seemed incongruous with his experience. When I questioned him, asking him to provide a transcript for our records, he left that day and never returned!
I hope you are not claiming a phony degree or lying about your accomplishments. But, are you real, living authentically? Or, do you work at presenting a fake joy, a pretend love, or a deeper spirituality than actually exists in your life?
“Ah, come on, Jerry, everybody does it.” Not ‘everybody’ but you are right, many do. The question remains, “Should it be done?” Knowing how much image-making goes on, I discount much of what I read and hear, thinking – “So, what really happened? What is the kernel of fact under the layers of padding?
Hyperbole is not the problem. When a person says, “I’ve told you a thousand times!” we know what they mean, that their words are not to be taken literally. The problem is word inflation, which is just plain old dishonesty.
- Politicians regularly do it. They gush over how happy they are to be in the city, with the fine mayor, reading off a cue card handed them by an aide as they walked to the microphone! The audience politely applauds while thinking, “How many times have you said that this week?”
- Job titles are handed out that mean little in reality but that give the appearance of importance. Have you ever noticed how many assistant vice presidents there are in banks? Advertisers routinely mislead consumers, though carefully within guidelines that avoid legal repercussion.
- I remember a trip to McD’s with my grandson. His Happy Meal™ included a little toy. After a moment, he threw the toy down on the table in disgust. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “It doesn’t work like on TV!” he replied. Few things do, my boy!
Alicia Chole wrote a great little devotional book for Lent. In it she asks us to reflect on the meaning of a true fast. Yesterday’s reading was a powerful call to reality! “Today, fast all appearances. Fast facades. Be fiercely attentive to when, where, and with whom you are tempted to inflate or deflate, exaggerate, or belittle your real self via speech or silence. Discuss your observations with Jesus. Ask Him to help you understand why you are investing energy in an illusion. Our reality does not frustrate Jesus. Our hypocrisy does.”
40 Days of Decrease
Besides being dishonest, which dishonors God, our willingness to play the game of ‘pretend’ has a terrible downside. In time we lose sight of who we actually are, starting to believe our own press releases. We slip deeper into a place where we lose ourselves and in that loss we also lose touch with God, the Holy Spirit, who wants to know us, lead us, and heal us. Jesus teaches – “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” (Matthew 5:37, The Message) He made this statement while talking about vows and promises. Our word, He taught, is to be so trustworthy there is no need for us to buttress our truthfulness by saying things like, “I swear to God!”
Those who follow Him should be so authentic, so transparent, that no one even thinks to question the truthfulness of what they say or wonder if there is any need to search for hidden messages. James, likewise, directs us to plain speech. “Since you know that God cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.” (James 5:12, The Message)
Listen to your words today.
See if you have developed a habit of inflation, even in the little stuff.
Do you exaggerate the tone of another’s words?
When you speak of yourself do your words make no more, no less of the situation than is real?
Do you use language in a way that always shines the favorable light on yourself?
Take Ms. Chole’s advice – “Fast facades!” Aim for honesty. I am not suggesting that in the name of being real that we have to say hurtful, mean, or ugly things! There’s a time for discretion which is expressed best by silence. Sometimes the best words are no words. Honor the Lord by refusing all forms of puffery, dishonesty, and fluff! Refuse to cultivate an image. Be the person God, in His grace, has called you to be, nothing more, nothing less.
Our word from the Word – “We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2, The Message)
Abba, I am so tempted to dance for others,
to seek their approval, to love their admiration.
Captivate me with Your holy beauty!
Teach me to love nothing more than obedience to You.
Help me to be honest with myself,
honest with others,
transparent before You.
Forgive me for playing games.
Lead me to contentment with the gifts You give,
the place You choose, the life with which I am blessed.
Jesus, secure me in Your love.
Whisper again to me,
“I Love You just as you are and too much to let you remain as you are.” Amen