Our post-modern world is becoming more and more compartmentalized. Everything is so fast. Things change so quickly. We are a people who flip through circumstances like an impatient channel-surfer, waiting to land on something comfortable, something familiar. If I feel awkward, I pull out my phone and change worlds with the click of a button. People are more accessible than ever – if a relationship causes tension, I can move to another through a variety of apps and opportunities.
The result of all of this is that we feel torn in a thousand different directions. In order to fit in and suppress tension, we learn what it takes to fit in within any given setting or relationship – coworkers, spouses, sports friends, neighbors, church, etc. We change masks multiple times a day. The worst is when we are alone. We don’t know what to say or think or do. When we’re not pandering to someone’s expectations, we are lost.
The collateral damage in all of this is an understanding, appreciation, and even acceptance of our identity. In the name of safety and acceptance, we have performed whatever is necessary to fit in during each of life’s compartments. We are able to conjure up the safest mask at the drop of a hat, but we do not know who we truly are.
The Fear Within
The deep fear we all live with is the possibility that we might get one of these masks wrong. What if I don’t measure up at work? What if I disappoint my friends? We develop a performance mentality that lives in constant fear of dropping the ball.
Even deeper than that, we are afraid someone might see a glimpse of the true self we are trying to hide. What if my spouse knew about my lustful thoughts? What if my church knew about my doubts? Or my past? The fear we name on a daily basis is the fear of under-performing. The real fear is the fear of being seen, truly seen, and rejected. Our performance is an attempt to protect our true self from the dangers of exposure.
The Longing Within
No matter how comfortable or rich or popular we make ourselves, we can never silence the nagging need to have our true self seen and exposed. The longing to be who we truly are pulses in our veins. We might be successful in wearing the masks, in playing the games, but it is the inner sanctum of our souls that longs to be exposed, to be seen and accepted.
We cannot be accepted without exposure. We cannot belong without risking rejection. Day in and day out, we settle for a trumped up sense of acceptance, one that minimizes and hides the risk of rejection, the possibility of failure. But the more we avoid the threat of failure, the more we close ourselves off from the true potential of acceptance and belonging.
A Consistent Person
Transcendence means consistency. It is a uniformity of motivation, value, thought, and behavior. What each of us longs for is the ability to be who we are in peace and freedom, joy and contentment. Desperately, we want to be driven by a deep sense of purpose rather than a kaleidoscope of situations and settings.
We see this in the movies all the time. When someone finds their voice, we sing with them. The world is full of influences telling us who we ought to be. But each of us are an influence ourselves, capable of telling the world what it ought to be.
It takes time to discover who we are. It takes self-inspection and self-evaluation. There will be rejection. There will be failure. But there is no secret to life greater than this: to discover who we are and to be that person in all situations, circumstances, and relationships.