I'm Not Who People Think I Am
Q. I put up a happy and perfect front to hide my hurting and sin. And honestly, I think a lot of my youth group friends do the same. How do I start being honest? How do I get over my fear of showing my true self?
A. You're not alone in your struggles. In fact, great heroes of faith have felt the same way you feel. The Apostle Paul wrote, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. … I know that nothing good lives in me. … For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do" (NIV).
Basically, Paul is admitting that he's no good without God. And he's right. The Bible is clear that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We all hurt. We all sin. And like Paul, we hate some of the things we do and we don't understand our actions.
So, what's the easiest way to deal with these faults? We hide them. We cover them up. We dress up and go to church and smile. People ask how we are and we politely say "Fine"—even though we're definitely not fine. Why do we do this? Because we don't want to admit we're not perfect. We don't want to spill our messiness on others. If we do, we think people will judge us and reject us.
But church is the one place we should be able to be real and messy. We all know we're all flawed. We all know we're carrying burdens and secret sins. So let's admit them and help each other. Now, I'm not saying you should stand up in church and announce your sin. Instead, I've found that meeting weekly with a small group of guys helps keep me on the right path. These men hold me accountable to walk closer with God. We are very open and honest with each other. They cheer me on to do good and call me out when I mess up. I know I'm a stronger Christian and better man because of my relationship with these four guys. This type of honesty and vulnerability is not easy. It's hard to be open and real. When my group started meeting, we mainly talked about surface stuff. One day, one guy had a family crisis. As he opened up, it gave each of us the freedom to also open up. We realized we wouldn't be rejected for being real. Now we have a very honest, blunt and unashamedly Christian group.
So my advice to you is to find at least one other person you can be real with and who will accept you for who you are (a sinner saved by grace). In doing so, I believe you'll begin to overcome your fears about being yourself. Most importantly, you'll be following the scriptural advice of Galatians 6:2: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (NIV).
Jim is an author, longtime youth worker and founder of HomeWord, a group seeking to honor God through strong families.
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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