I see a challenge as I look around at others and as I look within myself. The challenge is to be real, to be the same person on the outside as I am on the inside. The word “hypocrite” comes from Greek culture where it was used to describe actors who wore masks. The mask might be an attractive mask or an unattractive one. It might represent someone who was good or bad. What made someone a hypocrite was the mask they wore.
This challenge to be real is one that unsettles me. As one who takes faith seriously, I want to put forth a good impression. As one who mentors and coaches others, I want to seem like I have my act together. The truth is that in many ways I have my act together and in many other ways I am fumbling trying to figure out which way is up. I am a work in progress!
What do I do with this reality? First, I need to be honest with myself and with God. Os Guiness calls this living for the Audience of One. Most people don’t know me in the depths of who I really am. They see and judge the mask, and I wear a pretty attractive mask, or at least I try to. I am also a pretty good actor, seeming real and vulnerable, yet keeping much to myself. There is nothing wrong with this at a certain level. We should be selective with whom we bear our soul.
This leads to the second thought. While we live for the Audience of One, being honest with Him and ourselves, we need to have a few people in our lives with whom we take off the mask. There needs to be a few people with whom we expose our insecurities, our bad habits, our deepest struggles. This is also a place for hopes and dreams. We hide our best selves as well as our worst selves, fearing that we will be seen as arrogant or deluded. A spouse can be great for this, but we need one or two others also. I see this as a glaring deficiency in our culture. Too many people only relate with others on a surface level, never opening up about doubts or fears, aspirations and deep desires. This makes us lonely people despite having many that we text with and interact with on a weekly basis. We feel alone because we are not known beyond the mask we effectively wear for others.
One of my great joys in life is having a few others, including my wife, with whom I am growing in being real. I still hold back, but not as much as I used to. If I were to give one piece of advice to someone on how to be happier, it would be to open up to someone about the real you. We don’t need more money or more things, we need one or two others who love us even though they know what lies behind the mask. This will be scary, but freeing. Honesty at this level is also the path to healing. When we bring the hidden out into the light, and we realize that we are accepted even in our imperfections, we are empowered to grow.
Who knows the real you? Where do you take the mask off?