Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about something John Ortberg calls “Perception Management.” In a nutshell, it’s the behavior we engage in that helps to shape the way we want to be viewed by others. It’s the little white lies, the half-truths, the pretenses under which we operate. It’s agreeing with others we don’t even like because we desperately seek affirmation and approval. It’s wearing clothes we think look silly so we can be accepted into a group with whom we likely have very little in common.
These behaviors fall into two primary categories: mirage or masquerade.
Mirages are intriguing. Essentially, a mirage is an “optical phenomenon in which light is refracted through a layer of hot air close to the ground, giving the appearance of there being refuge in the distance (wiktionary.com).” In layman’s terms, it’s an optical illusion that makes something appear that isn’t really there. Does that sound vaguely familiar?
I encounter mirages all the time. Not just ones on the road, but also ones in interpersonal relationships. Unlike the ones we can see when it’s hot outside, relational mirages can lead to very real danger. People talk about what’s important to them, what really matters, how they want to make a difference, how they will get their priorities straight. And, you could swear they mean it. But, in the end, most people are creating an illusion. They simply want to be thought more highly of, and there’s no substance there. And, just like the mirage vanishes before your very eyes as you get closer, you’ll encounter similar results with people who are all about smoke and mirrors.
If you don’t see a mirage, perhaps you are at the masquerade. A basic definition of masquerade is “the concealment of something by a false or unreal show.” The difference between a mirage and masquerade is this: with a mirage, nothing is really there. At a masquerade, something IS there, but it is hidden by a mask. It’s when I believe something in my heart, but put up a front to keep you from knowing too much about who I really am. It’s the beautiful person God created me to be who is too afraid to come to the surface. It’s the small talk I make to avoid meaningful dialogue. It’s appearing tougher than I really am, or that I have it all together. It’s that craving for acceptance that leads me to do that thing in a group setting that I would never do all alone. It’s putting a Bible on my end table, so that you’ll think I love God, even though I haven’t opened my Bible in years.
Whether it’s a mirage or a masquerade, you can be certain that one thing is missing: honesty. People aren’t honest with themselves, and they aren’t honest with others. And, if I cannot be honest with myself, how can I possible be honest with others? Exactly.
In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes that, like an item for sale in an outlet mall, we all come with an “as-is” tag. We are all flawed. And, like that “slightly irregular” shirt you bought at the store, the flaw may not be apparent initially. But, rest assured that it will be discovered sooner or later.
So, if we are all flawed, let’s all just admit it and get over ourselves. Be brutally honest with yourself. Stop playing “make believe” and be authentic. It’s much less exhausting, and will free you up to become the “wonderfully made” being God created!