So, I was enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend at Starbucks, when all of a sudden I was staring at Danny Devito and Jack Nicholson. I took a double-take. What in the world are they doing here?
But on my third-take, I had a sense that something was wrong. While these men looked very much like the well-known movie stars, there was something just a little bit off, a little bit false, in their appearance.
Curious, I went over to their table and said, “OK, you know why I’m here, who are you guys?” They gave me their cards and confirmed that they were celebrity impersonators. Their calling in life was to represent someone other than who they really were.
We may chuckle, but the truth is we often do the same—we spend great effort portraying ourselves to others as someone other than who we really are. It’s a mask we wear in order to cover up what’s flawed, or to impress others with an image beyond our true selves.
This pattern, portraying a false self, is epidemic among mankind, and it began very early in the human story. When the first man and woman were caught in deceit, and God came looking for them, their immediate reflex was to cover up and hide:
- “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked…and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:7
- When they “heard the sound of the Lord…they hid.” v. 8
- When God called to Adam, he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” v. 10
With that starkly honest, and horribly revealing exchange, a pattern was set for all men and women who are aware of their fallenness and flaws—”I’m exposed, I am afraid, I must hide myself.” We learn to hide flaws behind a mask, and promote a false self that we think impresses others more than who we really are.
The problem is, that on a certain level it works. There are many masks we take on that effectively cover up, impress, or intimidate:
- Stoic/Tough guy/Loner
- Pious legalist/Judge/Condemner
Author Larry Crabb says, “We are ruthlessly committed to self protection.” That is the underlying longing behind every one of these false-self masks. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are following the footsteps of Adam and Eve, and we believe: I am naked, I am afraid, I must hide myself. All of us are ruthlessly committed to wearing masks that provide self-protection.
The Enemy, who is the ultimate deceiver, sees the genuine gifts and talents that God has given us, and urges us to distort them into self-protective impersonations:
- The man with high quality standards becomes the demanding Perfectionist.
- The man who enjoys making others feel welcome becomes the Joker who hides his true heart.
- The man who cares about the needs of others becomes the People-pleaser controlled by the opinions of others.
- The man of conviction and strength becomes the Intimidator who insists on getting his way.
- The man with persuasive ability to inspire others becomes the Performer who impresses.
- The man with enormous energy becomes the Workaholic enslaved by his job.
The mask of the false-self is a broken distortion of our true self; ruthlessly committed to self-protection.
The saving grace is that behind that false-self mask is a godly longing for what mankind once experienced in the Garden:
- The Perfectionist is longing for acceptance
- The Joker is longing for joy
- The People-pleaser is longing for love
- The Intimidator is longing for security
- The Performer is longing for respect
- The Workaholic is longing for significance
All of these longings were placed in the human heart by the Creator, and they were all fulfilled when we first walked with him. But then we turned away, realized we were naked, and we hid ourselves.
Those God-designed longings are now fulfilled when we reject our dependence on our mask for significance or security, and walk instead in the security and significance of relationship with the Father who accepts us unconditionally.
In the parable Jesus told of the Lost Son (Luke 15), the father tells the ashamed, rebellious son, I will never reject you. The father tells the resentful, performing son, You will always have me and everything I have. The heavenly Father says the same to you and me.
Everything we truly long for is provided through relationship with the Father. No mask, no false impersonation, no matter how convincing, will ever satisfy what the Father already gives us: significance, security, relationship, meaning, love.
I urge you to rest in the significance of being the man God had in mind when he created you: the man who inspires, improves, creates, organizes, encourages, defends, assists, instructs, or heals. Be that person, not just some lame impersonator of someone else.
He’s a genuine man, with gifts and flaws, the world really wants to know and really needs.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.