The Cost of Authenticity

I love the song Stain Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns. It addresses a very real problem in our world and in the church: the problem of being fake. We display our best front; we put on our nicest looking mask, and we are absolutely terrified to let anybody too close. We all do it to some to degree. We almost have to in order to survive and have have some semblance of friendship. But deep inside we know we don’t measure up to the image we try so desperately to display. This is what prevents the authentic relationships we all desire. We may be very popular, even famous, and still be lonely simply because we are not really known.  So the song begins by the questions so many of us feel as we walk inside of a church building: “Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls? Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small?” The fear such questions produce is also expressed as the  song continues: “Cause when I take a look around, Everybody seems so strong, I know they’ll soon discover, That I don’t belong.”
It’s all an illusion of course. Nobody is as strong as the image they try to display. But the illusion is enough to keep people at a distance. The song continues:
So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay,
 If I make them all, believe it,
maybe I’ll believe it too,
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them
It’s like a game begun in childhood that we play  so often, I don’t think we even realize we are playing it. We like to hide our own faults while at the same time criticizing faults of others. This may help us feel a little better about ourselves, but it certainly doesn’t make us more godly. In fact, it isolates us and makes us more fearful and ineffective. It also makes us incredibly unhappy and lonely.
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade
It is very hard to get past this “stained glass masquerade.” Why? Because we are afraid of rejection, and this is not an illusion. The fear is real and so are the consequences. We see how people are treated when their flaws are discovered. In fact, we may even share in the rejection ourselves. It always seems so ironic to me how some can be so harsh towards others for minor offenses over ambiguous matters (such as doctrinal interpretations) while being guilty themselves of some clearly immoral behavior. Such people seem to find comfort in criticizing others for offenses, as long as their own skeletons remain undiscovered. Such people find it most difficult to be real with others because they are aware of how they have treated others whose sins have been discovered.
The beauty of Christianity is found in forgiveness; but our forgiveness is contingent upon our willingness to forgive others. A self-righteous Christian is a contradiction in terms.  Self-righteousness and arrogance are worldly traits and signs of immaturity. Such people must be reminded of the log in their own eye before they try to remove the speck in the eye of others (Mt. 7:1-6).  When people see others through the lens of their own shortcomings, they are much more accepting and willing to be open and honest with others. However, people are not used to a person who is open and honest. To some, it will come across as refreshing; but to most, it will come across as suspicious. Motives will be questions and accusations made. People will sometimes misunderstand and react with hostility.
I think each of us wonders at times, if people knew the real me, my real thoughts, my mistakes, my flaws, and the things I’m ashamed to admit,  could people still love me? What if people knew my doubts, my struggles, my depression, my insecurity, could I still be loved? My experience has taught me that the answer to such a questions for the most part is “NO.” The truth is, the more real you are, the fewer friends you will have. you will have fewer friends; but better friends. Such friends have been tested and proven faithful. They are real friends. I will take one such friend over a thousand friends who don’t know me at all.
There are risks and severe consequences to being real. It is a major obstacle in our faith journey and it will not be overcome easily. It is a whole lot easier to just keep your mouth shut, follow suite with others, and live in the delusion of peace and tranquility. Perhaps, you can be content to go through life without anybody ever really getting to know the real you; however, I am not. But my desire to be known for what I am and what I think has cost me plenty. I have been deserted by people I thought were friends. I have lost employment. I have been misunderstood, falsely accused, and publicly slandered. I have been hated and hurt by the very people I cared for the most. Not only do I suffer, but my family must suffer with me, and that bothers me most of all.
However, I’ll take it. I may get deserted by those who I thought were friends, but in the process I have been able to identify real friends. I have been burned many times by confiding in the wrong people who twist my intentions and rise against me. This is bound to happen to anybody who seeks to be authentic. It is a risk that must taken.
There will always be pressure to conform to the crowd, and there will always be a cost for not conforming. What many don’t realize is that there is a cost in conforming as well: you lose your true identity. People can’t love you, if they don’t know you. I want to be known and loved for who I am, not for who I am not. I want to remain true to what I believe is right even if it causes rejection. In the end, I want to be sure that I have been faithful to God rather than man.
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About Ken Sayers

I'm currently employed by a children's home where my wife and I care for a cottage of girls who have been displaced from their families. I'm a middle age man with two grown children of my own and one grandchild. I have worked as a United States Marine, a youth minister, a preacher, a childcare worker, and a truck driver. My hobbies include photography, horses, playing guitar, writing, and fitness.
This entry was posted in Life Lessons, Music, Religion/Spiritual Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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