One of the most common complaints that I hear about churches and people who attend them is, “They are all a bunch of hypocrites.” As a long-time pastor, I agree. We all have some hypocrisy in our lives. It’s not just the people who attend a church or a synagogue.
I recently wrote about integrity—who we are when no one is looking. A hypocrite is the opposite of a person with integrity. Before we point the finger at others who have cracks in their integrity, think more closely about the word hypocrite. The New Testament section of the Bible was originally written in the Greek language. Hypokrites, the Greek word that we translate as hypocrite, literally means an actor or stage player.
In the tradition of ancient Greek drama, it was common for an actor to play several different roles in one performance. They would use a different carved wooden mask for each of the various characters they were playing. One mask might be smiling and one might be frowning. Everyone in the audience knew the different symbols. When an actor in the ancient drama needed to switch to a different role, he simply picked up a different mask and held it in front of his face. It was really pretty simple.
Don’t we do the same thing? For each situation and social circumstance we find ourselves in, we present our best act. We show ourselves in the best possible light—even if it isn’t completely honest, accurate or authentic. We tend to calculate who we think that particular group wants us to be and then we select the mask to play that character for them. The mask may change for those at work, our friends, those at our place of worship or when we are with our family.
It may be hard to see it in yourself, but each of us lacks integrity at some point or another. We even have phrases like “little white lies” to protect or justify this phony behavior. We want to keep it looking good on the outside.
Let me suggest two things that might help you to be more authentic:
Remember that integrity starts from the inside out, not the outside in. God wants to transform the inside of our hearts not just to dust off the smudges on the outside. Read Matthew 23:25-28.
Ask yourself, “What is your integrity worth?” It’s easy to respond, “it’s worth everything” but still shade your resume to get a better job. And that means your integrity is worth whatever that job pays. Or maybe you only exaggerate your stories to your friends so you get to be their hero. What is your integrity worth?
What if we all aligned ourselves so closely to God that we committed to living in a “No Spin Zone?” What if our behavior actually lined up with our beliefs? What if our “yes” was always yes and our “no” was always no? What if we didn’t switch masks for different scenarios throughout our day? What if we got rid of our masks and people saw the real you and me?
Integrity really does matter. I think we would all find ourselves receiving honor, trust and respect from the people around us in ways that we’ve never had before.
QUESTION: What helps you to live with authenticity? Please share it below.