When I was a kid, there was one sound that sent me jumping to my feet and out the door. The sound of The Ice Cream Truck. That sing-song little jingle was music to my ears. Like a Pavlovian dog, my impulses carried me to the sweet promise of tasty treats.
My favorite kind of ice cream was this large popsicle-type thing that had a bunch of different colors swirling down it. As you made your way through, the colors swirled on each other and you got the best of grape and cherry And watermelon.
One day I bought what I thought was my favorite swirl popsicle. Only to find that after a couple minutes of licking, the colors faded and it was all grape underneath. I don’t love grape. And the feeling of being deceived was strong enough that I am writing about it thirty years later.
There is a crisis of character in today’s world. And the reason is because what we present on the outside does not run all the way through.
We work at character as if we are trying to convince someone of how great we are. Our attempts at character are publicity stunts. We look in the mirror and smear a layer of makeup over our imperfections, playing the part of ‘kind’ or ‘loving’ or ‘peaceful’. We try to protect ourselves from every kind of deception except self-deception. Lying to ourselves is the only kind of dishonesty our culture still applauds.
We’re like a cake of only icing. Like that popsicle that worked so hard to look good on the outside but was something else all together underneath.
Self-awareness is about trying to understand who we really are on the inside, and what things we do to our outside to mask the truths within.
The True Self
We often hear the phrase ‘depth of character’. True virtue runs deep. It does not smear away after a few trials. It does not disappear in a storm or melt away over time.
And the tragedy is that most of us do not know who we truly are. We have tried so hard for so long to put on a pretty mask. The upkeep has become everything. We don’t even know what we’re hiding anymore. It’s Pandora’s box.
If we truly want to live transformed lives and participate in thriving relationships, it is time to start addressing the truth of who we are and present it boldly to the world. This does not mean there are not things we are working on, a call to improve. But we spend way too much time hiding. Sin lives in secrecy and the quiet places in our soul are poisoning our character.
My popsicle was not perfect. But it was upfront and clear. It was what it claimed to be. We make too many claims that do not align with our values. We’d do anything for affirmation and so we say yes to whatever might be received. True character is about being exactly who we claim to be, grape and all.