Hiding Who We Are, Pretending To Be Who We Are Not

15 06 2010

INTEGRITY (hear that a lot); what does that mean to me? Total honesty and sincerity (no mixed agendas or hidden intentions); not divided in who I am and how I act. Integrity means not “presenting” anything about myself, just being who I really am, really. As I look at it, I can see how integrity is the best of the best qualities a person can possess, and yet probably the hardest thing to truly achieve. For every one of these traits, I can give examples of how I haven’t lived up to them.

Having said that, it really, really matters to me to work through whatever misses the mark. My conscience is alive and I absolutely hate that heavy feeling I get when I know I was less than honest or sincere. I know when I put on a face or I am having another conversation inside of me, different from the words coming out of my mouth. Sick.

Proverbs this morning (10:9) says,

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”

When I think about walking a straight path, the closest I can come is that I would be honest before God and people about the areas I wasn’t honest about. There is no way I am going to achieve “total integrity” so at least I can have integrity about where I haven’t had integrity (you know what I mean?). I want to be the first to say the Truth about me; I don’t want anything to have to be “found out.”

Jesus loves me even though I fail, this I know; people are another story. It’s scary being honest about one’s screw-ups.  It is scary, because the world affords such little room to fail. It’s so scary that we tend to hide who we are and pretend to be who we aren’t.

I heard a report on a CBC Radio One program not so long ago, talking about how “the government” would like to say sorry about some things, but how careful they have to be about the words they use when they say “I am sorry” or “we were wrong;” they have to be careful because people are not prone to say, “thank you for saying that.” People are prone to sue, call for resignations, and throw stones.

As a result, we tidy up; even if tidy isn’t true. For myself, a phrase that has been repeatedly said to me is this: “I expected more from you” when I fall short. What that has done to me is make me strive to give people what they expect. That’s not integrity; that’s a reasonably good job of acting.

If I want to walk securely, not looking over my shoulder, I won’t pretend. I don’t want to fail, but I will. I don’t want to slip up, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to drop the ball. I don’t want to say one thing and do another. I really would like to get things right the first time. I want to live a stellar life, but I just can’t and it is here in print.

That’s why, if you are reading this and you don’t know Christ, I will at times appear to be what you call “a hypocrite.” I am sorry about that; I am sorry for my inconsistency.  But hopefully there is something consistent in me: that I admit my failure, that I seek forgiveness, that I don’t live where I was but move towards the better picture that Christ has of me. I don’t want to present to you what a Christian should be like; I just want to be a Christian and you can decide for yourself if that is worth a second glance.

I, like everyone, fall short of what God originally had in mind. God, who knows I would commit violation after violation, paid for this crime and is making something new out of me as we go.   I am now pursuing a life of integrity out of gratitude, not out of my own or anyone’s expectations. My life is a continual response to the grace that has been extended to me from nail-scarred hands.

I am not a model project but, back to Proverbs, I think I can walk with eyes ahead if I know I haven’t – to the best of my ability – left messes behind me.

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: “He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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