A man is desperate for a job. He’d been looking around for quite a while, but couldn’t find anything. So he contacts his local zoo to see if there are any vacancies. The zoo director told him yes, there was something available, but it was a little unusual: “Our gorilla died a few months ago, and we don’t have the money to replace him. If you’re willing to wear a monkey suit and impersonate an ape, you’ve got the job”.
It wasn’t what the job seeker was looking for, but a job’s a job. He signed on, and it wasn’t easy to pretend to be a gorilla, but after a few awkward days he got the swing of it. After a while he became one of the zoo’s main attractions. The kids loved him, thinking he was a real monkey.
One morning he was swinging from one vine to the next and overdid it, and accidentally swung himself over the wall into the cage next to his. The cage had this enormous African lion. Straight away he knew he was in trouble. He started screaming for help when suddenly the lion whispered to him, shhhh quiet!—or we’ll be both out of a job.
The moral of the story? You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t hide behind someone or something else. Be genuine—be authentic. Some psychologists say this is a very strong drive inside us—they have a phrase for it: ‘Impostor phenomenon’. A sense that if I pretend to be someone else, people will accept me and love me.
Many of us have fears and situations where we don’t feel comfortable, feel like we don’t fit in, or have to wear a mask to disguise who we are. Because if I present the ‘real me’ to the world, no-one will like me. God has not made us this way. He created us in his image to live in community with others and in a personal relationship with him. There’s no need to pretend.
You don’t have to convince anyone else you are smarter or better than them. Can we live in a spirit of openness and transparency? It’s like putting on make-up. Nothing wrong with make-up ladies—please understand. But powder and lipstick doesn’t make you you. It’s when you be yourself, be natural, that people see the real you.
In today’s living, we’ve learned that image is everything, that what counts is how you look, the impression you make. So what happens? We fake it. When someone asks, How are you?, we say, I’m doing well, thanks, when in fact we’re telling a lie. In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace? Christian author Phillip Yancey, talks about meeting a prostitute on the streets and sharing the message of Jesus Christ with her. When Yancey gently suggested that she might seek out a church, she looked at him and said, Why would I want to do that? I already feel awful enough about my life?
God Looks at the Heart
I think that answer opens up a problem for many churches. Do we Christians assure people that we’re not perfect, and for the prostitute walking into a church full of ‘perfect people’ would only accentuate her own failures and inadequacies? I heard of one person who admitted, I find more honesty in one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting than in an entire year going to church. Maybe it’s time we stood up in church and said, My name is Chris, and I’m a recovering sinner.
How many times, in a crowded room, are we drawn to the people who either look like us or simply look like they have it all together? The key word there is ‘look’. It is easy to make the outward appear acceptable to others. In other words, mask our real self. However, God looks at the heart, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).
God does not look at the outward appearance or even the mask people wear. He looks at what matters, the heart. Many things in our lives can be hidden from others by putting on a mask that so many of us wear. However, if we would just focus on our heart issues, then everything else in our lives would fall into place.
Let People Get Close to You
In order to get to know someone, we have to go beyond the outward. We should not prejudge people we come in contact with. You and I need to take the time and interest in the lives of the people around us. Getting to know a person will help us to determine whether we have things in common. To do that we need to go deeper, to the heart of the matter, if you will.
You and I need to take the dust covers off of ourselves and let people see us for who we are. Then, they will feel more at ease and more likely to let their guard down and be comfortable enough to take off their own masks. It is imperative that we are all real with one another and, most importantly, with God.
Let’s be real with one another and, most importantly, with God.
God never intended for you to go through life on your own power, as a lone ranger without anybody else helping you. You were made inadequate so you would need other people. And I was created inadequate so I would need other people. See? There’s a reason! We’re created for community. We’re formed for a family. You need me, and I need you. We need each other. You don’t have to pretend anymore.
You know, most people have never experienced true intimacy. Why? Because we tend to keep people at a distance. We don’t let them get too close. We think, If they get too close, they’ll see my fears. They’ll see what I’m afraid of. They’ll see my weaknesses. If they get too close they will see the real me, and what if they don’t like me?
Well, that’s a risk you have to take. You must let people get close to you.