On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from any human being, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our prerogatives. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6
Keeping secrets; hiding who we are. Far more of us do it than would admit it.
We present, as Susan Howatch calls it: “a glittering image” rather than our real selves. We want people to like what they see when they look at us, so we don’t show them ourselves, we show them a “cleaned up” version we think they will like better. We hide and pretend and reveal only small pieces of ourselves in a calculated attempt to be seen as acceptable. To control the perception others have of us.
And the main reason we do this?
Fear of being found out. Fear of being decidedly “less than” in the eyes of others. Fear of being a disappointment to others in the ways we’ve been a disappointment to ourselves.
We are trying to please people’s expectations or earn their admiration. We are seeking to cover up our flaws and find validation.
When Paul writes to the Thessalonians (in 2:4-6) he addresses this temptation, this tendency that paralyzes freedom and abundant living.
A declaration from Paul that struck me:
“…we never used flattery nor put on a mask to cover up greed…”
Flattery, not compliments. Paul isn’t saying he never compliments someone or acknowledges a job well done. But he doesn’t use flattery. In other words, Paul is saying that he doesn’t use other people’s need for validation to get what he is after either.
Paul doesn’t play the secrets game either. He isn’t trying to cover up, in this case greed. But I think we could insert anything we like to hide here. When we get sucked into playing the secrets games, hiding what we think people won’t accept, presenting what we believe they would rather see in us, we find ourselves using masks. Hiding behind our glittering images.
Living as a secret keeper is a prison sentence. It’s a constant battle to control what others see. It’s a living fear that people will know our failures, our unseemly tendencies, and ultimately that they will reject us. It’s living outside the reality that we are loved by God, adored by him and unconditionally accepted. Instead it’s assuming that God feels about us like we feel about ourselves. As Brennan Manning has said, Jesus would much prefer we stop putting our preconceived notions of ourselves on him.
Isn’t it time we lived in the freedom of God’s perception instead of the ruinous and merciless perception we have of ourselves? Or the perceptions we think others have? Isn’t it time to stop wearing masks? To stop presenting an image?
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16-18