Don't Fake Perfection
The pressure to project an image of ourselves to the world as put-together, successful, happy, and confident is nothing new to our culture. People have been doing this for centuries.
There were other messages even when there wasn't the constant thrum of image-conscious drivel of social media to remind us that we ought to show the world how absolutely fine we are.
Some of us grew up with parents or teachers in our ears telling us to stand up straight, put a smile on our faces, stop crying, suck it up, rub some dirt on it, pull ourselves together, and a host of other helpful tips on hiding our emotions.
Or we may have had to listen to friends and relatives drone on and on about their kids' accomplishments, or the new car they just purchased, or the raise they got that enabled them to go to Fiji on a whim for a weekend.
And we had to sit there with a fake smile, saying things like, "Wow, that's wonderful." or "You must be so proud." Meanwhile, we thought, "There's no way I can measure up. I'm obviously a failure."
Not to mention all of the ads and commercials that stereotyped what it means to be calm, cool, collected, well-dressed, and perfectly capable of handling anything life might throw our way.
There's a reason why all of these messages have been beaming into our brains for years and years. We all feel a little inadequate. Maybe a lot inadequate.
And now, those messages beam even more so because of the little doorways into the world that we carry around with us, scrolling constantly and occasionally clicking to buy our way to happiness or register for the next program that will enable us to figure out who we really are.
I mean smartphones, if you were wondering.
So we do our darndest to project an image to the world of a successful, happy, centered kind of person, even when we feel like we're falling apart.
The great philosopher and psychologist William James wrote this in the late 19th century:
Take the happiest man, the one most envied
by the world, and in nine cases out of ten his
inmost consciousness is one of failure.
This relevant bit of wisdom was penned back in the late 1800s. The fact that it has stayed relevant all the years since is nothing short of sobering. We still haven't figured this out.
There's a reason why Jesus told his followers to leave off the kind of pretentions that the overly religious and powerful people of his day seemed to be known for.
He told them to let their "Yes be yes" and "No be no."
In other words, "Be exactly who you are. Don't overpromise and underdeliver like those who put on airs." He also wanted them to live with integrity, act with vulnerability and humility, and make their inside match their outside.
For Jesus, this is how people best lived in true community with one another.
Author and speaker Bob Goff puts it like this:
Don't fake perfection. Go for broke instead. The hidden cost of faking it is isolation, but the payoff of vulnerability is community.
May we let those words of wisdom land upon us and leave us transformed. May we all learn what it means to live authentically. May we draw others to us with our honesty and integrity.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.