Take Your Masks Off: The Value of Authenticity
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2009 24 Mar
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Julianna Slattery's book, Beyond the Masquerade: Unveiling the Authentic You, (Tyndale House Publishers, 2007).
If you’re in a hurry, you may not worry about leaving the house wearing a stained shirt or mismatched socks, without brushing your hair or putting on makeup. But what if other people could see beyond your physical appearance and look at your insecurities, pride, shame, or malicious thoughts?
Those are the kinds of things our society urges you to cover up. After a while, you create masks to hide your true thoughts and feelings and present an image you hope will prove your worth. The longer you wear your masks, the more comfortable they feel. But you can’t enjoy healthy relationships unless you remove the masks and show others who you really are.
Here’s how you can take off the masks you present to the world and be authentic:
Realize the price of the masks you wear. Understand that your masks prevent you from experiencing intimacy with God. Rather than trying to impress God, pursue an honest and intimate relationship with Him while relying on His strength. Know that your masks prevent you from pleasing God. Instead of vying for other people’s approval and praise, live to please God alone – no matter what others think of you. Shift your focus from establishing your identity on earth to becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Understand that your mask prevents you from experiencing intimacy in relationships. Rather than trying to prove your value to other people, seek to simply connect with them.
Ask deep questions. Don’t be afraid to honestly ask yourself deep questions about your existence, worth, emotions, thoughts, and purpose. Stop living according to the status quo and consider what changes you need to make to become more authentic with God, yourself, and other people.
Embrace the biblical view of self-esteem. Base your self-esteem on God’s love for you instead of just your own love for yourself, and on unchanging biblical truth rather than other people’s changing opinions of you in different circumstances.
Discover your purpose. Acknowledge that you can’t create value apart from God; He empowers you to do absolutely everything, and even your next breath is a gift from Him. So instead of trying to create your own feelings of self worth, discover the purposes God has for your life. Remember that God has made you in His own image, so you’re valuable for who you are, not what you do. Know that God loves you completely and unconditionally; you can neither earn nor lose His love.
Ask God to make His purposes for your life clear, and to help you fulfill them well. Expect that when you’re pursuing God’s purposes for you, you’ll be free of the need to achieve, impress, and compete.
Trade lies for the truth about yourself. Take an honest look at yourself in light of these biblical truths:
- You’re sinful and are powerless to stop sinning on your own, so you need to rely on God’s power;
- You’re not in control of your life, but God is;
- The world doesn’t revolve around you, and you’re one small part in God’s great story;
- All your strengths are from God, so you can’t take credit for them and should use them to serve and glorify God; and
- Your weaknesses are greater than your strengths, because your weaknesses cause you to depend on God’s greater power.
Instead of just trying to feel good about yourself, seek to experience the reality of God’s goodness to you. Let the awareness of your brokenness lead you to the wholeness you can only find in Christ.
Find real confidence. Rather than basing your confidence on how smart, beautiful, successful, talented, or charming you are, base it on what that will never change – God’s love for you and His power to work through you. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not to try to feel more confident; pretending will only lead to deeper insecurity. Accept the truth about yourself, tell the truth, and live in that truth.
Place your confidence in God by taking the risks you sense Him leading you take – even risks so big that you surely would fail without Him. Be willing to relinquish everything that keeps you placing your confidence in yourself (accomplishments, knowledge, family, personality, appearance, relationships, possessions, education, status, etc.) so you can place your confidence completely in God.
Humble yourself. Understand that humility actually frees you from the bondage of either inferiority or pride because it frees you from a preoccupation with yourself. Pray for the strength to become humble. Don’t demand your way even when it’s your right to do so. Be gracious to people who offend you and be willing to say “I’m sorry” when you offend others. Choose to see other people with the same value that you give yourself, remembering that only God’s grace prevents you from being the worst of sinners.
Ask God to help you see Him more clearly, and expect that as you grow in your knowledge of how wonderful God is, you’ll be humbled by how much you need Him. Instead of searching desperately to figure yourself out, channel your passion into understanding more about God, who made you in His image. Realize that you please God most not by trying to make yourself good, but by throwing yourself into His arms with all your flaws, believing that He understands everything and still loves you.
Pursue transformed relationships. Let go of your concerns about how other people make you feel. Don’t worry about being affirmed, being right, demanding respect, judging others, keeping score, harboring bitterness, competing, gossiping, or bickering. Be more interested in genuinely connecting with others rather than impressing them or saving face. Speak the truth in all your relationships. Admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness. Lay aside your personal agendas to invite God to transform your relationships.
Do your work well. Don’t disengage with your work, viewing it just as a job that you have to do, but don’t really want to do well. Don’t be so driven that you try to prove your worth by working hard. Instead, do whatever work you do – from changing diapers or answering phones to inventing a product or speaking to crowds – with your very best effort, remembering that absolutely everything you do has eternal consequences. Look at every task you undertake as an opportunity to serve God through your attitude. Instead of working just for a paycheck or praise from other people, work to honor God.
Take a weekly Sabbath rest to recharge and acknowledge your ultimate dependence on God for your work and everything else in your life. Surrender your own career plans to God’s bigger and better plans for you. Instead of expecting God to work around what you’re doing, decide to direct your work around what God is doing.
Tell your story. When you talk with other people – family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, etc. – be willing to tell them the full story of how God has worked in your life so far. Don’t change or leave out any important details because you’re afraid of what they may think of you if you told them the whole truth. Realize that the story of how your brokenness has caused you to depend on Christ is much more powerful than any other story you could tell to try to impress people. Trust that every difficult and painful event in your life can be used to glorify God and tell others of His great love. Tell others what God has done for you!
This article was originally published on Crosswalk Women in November 2007.
Adapted from Beyond the Masquerade: Unveiling the Authentic You, copyright 2007 by Dr. Julianna Slattery. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill., www.tyndale.com.
Dr. Julianna Slattery and her husband, Michael, live in Akron, Ohio, with their three boys. Julie is a Christian psychologist, speaker, and writer whose passion is communicating God’s truth and love into the everyday lives of women. She is a regular contributor to Focus on the Family broadcasts and periodicals.