I’m a Halloween Scrooge. It’s my least favorite holiday, ranking lower even than Arbor Day (who doesn’t love trees?). I hate dressing up – mostly because I can never think of anything as clever or creepy as my friends – and I always make April answer the door when trick-or-treaters come begging for all my candy. It’s better for the kids that way. She oohs and aaahs at every costume she sees, even the pre-teen kid a couple of years ago who showed up wearing jeans and a WWE t-shirt and said – kind of mopily – that he was “supposed to be a wrestler” (true story). I just reluctantly dump candy in their bags, resentful that every piece I pass out is one I don’t get to eat myself, and slam the door. But I digress…
This Halloween we were invited to a costume party, and as much as I hate dressing up I really like the party’s hosts, so I agreed that April could pick out my costume – so I wouldn’t have to – and I’d gladly go along. She picked out one of the vampires from Twilight. (If there was a holiday devoted to Twilight, I can promise you it would rank even lower than Halloween on my list.) My “costume”, it turned out, would be makeup. Lots of it. To make me pale. And sparkly. Yay. But I digress again…
All in all, we had a great time, proof that the enjoyment of life depends far more on the people with whom you spend it than on the activities with which it’s filled. And, bonus, I managed to tease a really great life lesson out of my misery leading up to the actual party: that it’s hard being someone you’re really not, especially when you don’t know who you’re supposed to be.
Y’see, it turns out I was actually supposed to be a particular vampire from Twilight, some guy named Jasper. And my wife, bless her, did such a good job on my clothes and makeup that people guessed that without being told. But then I’d open my stupid mouth, at which time everybody who’s actually read a Twilight book or seen the movie would tell me, “no, no, you’ve got the accent all wrong. Jasper sounds like a Civil War general” or something, which I thought was really weird since in the picture I saw he looked more like he shopped at Banana Republic than that he fought at Antietam. The point being, having someone tell you that you aren’t being very you is, well, frustrating. And doesn’t that explain so much about the human condition, given how often and how much energy we devote to pretending we’re someone other than ourselves?
Authenticity makes life simpler and more enjoyable. Relationships are more fulfilling when you’re yourself. Other people are more likely to open up and share their true selves with you when they sense that you’re being real. (And people can almost always sense whether you’re being real or not. Rarely are we as convincing in our lies as we think we are.) The same is even truer of God, who knows us better than we know ourselves and who is as authentic as they come, yesterday, today, and forevermore.
A couple of weeks ago, Don Miller posted some really insightful thoughts on the Danger of Projecting an Identity, including this one:
“Projecting a righteous identity teaches people they will be safe as long as they are righteous which is a lie. They are not safe. Christ is safe and if we are one with Him than we are safe, too. Our own righteousness is nothing.”
Amen brother. In a nutshell, that’s the real risk of playing pretend with your life. At best, a clever and convincing facade might trick a girl into liking you for a little while or net you a new job that’s really beyond your skill. Even those benefits are likely to be short-lived, though, and there are sure to be repercussions for trickery. At worst, though? Your life here on Earth will never be fulfilled and you’re likely to spend the next life eternally separated from God.
Why do we pretend to be what we’re not? I think it’s because we don’t love ourselves. We’ve grown accustomed to measuring our worth by the wrong standards – by our parents’ expectations or in comparison to what we see in the media – and have thus become convinced, because those standards tell us we could be so much better, that we’re not good enough.
I say: forget worrying about your worth in terms of who you think you should be and start worrying about who you are. Are you a child of God, comfortable in your salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? Then you’ve got nothing more to worry about. If not, it’s only a short journey from wherever you are to the waiting arms of Christ.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on being someone you’re not. What do you think it is that makes so many people so uncomfortable in their own skin? What consequences have you or those you know faced because of pretending? (Also accepted: Halloween pictures!)