We seriously dislike shame. In fact, we go to great lengths to avoid it.
Can you think of an instance when you hid or covered a weakness or imperfection to avoid the pain of looking bad in front of others? Of course you have! We all have!
Some of us work so hard to cover our shortcomings that we end up living double lives. There’s the real me and the me that I want everybody to see. Of course, it’s probably good not to hang all of our dirty laundry out there for all the gawkers of our world, but what I’m talking about goes much further. It’s about presenting an image that is far (sometimes even opposite) from reality, and somehow thinking that’s okay.
As a kid I believed in God but didn’t have a lot of interest in organized religion. Every now and again I would attend church with another family. The father was an alcoholic and kept an extensive stash of porn. He treated his beautiful wife like dirt and most of their five kids with contempt. The entire family was in constant conflict most of the time.
But on Sundays everyone would dress up to look their best! As we drove to church the sweet sounds of arguing and cursing rose to the high heavens. But as soon as the car doors opened the transformation was instantaneous! Smiles, laughter, friendliness—all followed by the beautiful sounds of hymns rising to the heavens. After the service was finished we all piled in the car and everything returned to its normal hypocritical state.
I wasn’t a Christian at the time, but I was bright enough to know that something stunk about the whole scenario.
Image and reality don’t always coincide as they should, but in a media driven world the temptation to smother ourselves with fig leaves is intensified. This is because appearance means everything in our culture.
We’re all aware that billions and billions of dollars are spent by people trying to make themselves look acceptable to others. Whether it be name brand clothing or miracle diet pills, we’re driven by the reality that looking good makes us more acceptable in the eyes of others. God help the person whose fig leaves fail to make the grade!
What’s really funny (and sad at the same time) is that our standards of beauty change so drastically over time. Just look back to the fashions of the past. Bee hive hairdos. Afros. Mullets. Bell bottoms. Polyester. Leisure suits. Knee high white socks. We kill ourselves trying to measure up to standards of beauty that come from who knows where (most are actually the work of fashion designers) only to look back with embarrassment at it all.
It’s not really fashion we are pursuing, it’s approval, it’s validation, it’s glory. But it’s all only temporary. The test of time will eventually reveal the wisdom or foolishness of our choices. I’m just hoping that we can get this all figured out sooner rather than later!