Another Rejection response is to Mask pain and put on a False Front. It’s a self-defence mechanism, to protect our pride.
The Pride of Life is one of three human worldly motivators, along with the Lust of the Flesh and Lust of the Eyes. So people instinctively hide the truth if it will damage their image in the eyes of others.
The urge to deny our weakness, failings or vulnerabilities is ubiquitous. Little children start young, with “I didn’t do it, Mummy!” I recall seeing one child drop something, pick up the broken pieces and go straight to his Mum saying, “I didn’t break it!” No-one needed to teach the child to deny the unpleasant truth.
The force of denial leads to self-delusion, fantasy thoughts and the like. But for the purposes of our Rejection study denial is the force that prompts people to place a mask over their hurt and failure.
The Cover Up
I recall approaching a house and hearing a heated argument inside. When I knocked all went quiet. The door opened and a smiling face greeted me as if there was nothing wrong.
Have you ever had to answer the phone in the midst of an argument or upset? People can be shouting in argument, then pick up the phone and speak sweetly to their caller. A mask is placed over the problem or the heated moment, to keep it from others.
Rejected people, despite their personal pain, share that same instinct to cover up their unhappy lot. They learn to put on a smile, project an air of confidence, push down their unhappy feelings and give the impression that all is fine.
The False Front
The cartoon I use to describe masking our pain with a false front is that of a deeply inferior person projecting a different image onto the screen of their life. Rather than letting others see how miserable they feel, they give off the false front of a happy and confident person.
Sadly, most people live with some degree of masking. In a minimal level it is simply covering up a mistake, overlooking a weakness, or diverting people’s attention from things they don’t want openly known.
At the most extreme level a person can become completely false. Their whole life can become one of living a lie. They can hide just about everything about them.
Keeping up appearances is part of life in some fields. The old saying, “The Show Must Go On!” speaks to how performers must squash down their pain, skip onto stage and perform as if the personal issues that may have just bombarded them don’t exist.
Professionals in business need to maintain a professional front, not showing their despisement of their associates, clients, bosses or company policy. Politicians can argue behind closed doors then emerge as best of buddies, so the cameras convey the desired image.
Doctors, counsellors and others have to maintain a ‘public face’ in dealing with their clients, as part of their professionalism.
The Ministry Smile
Mid last century the idea of giving away a “smile” became popularised in Christian circles. In some churches the “ministry smile” took on Biblical standing as a ministry obligation. While always smiling affirmation at people has a natural sweetness about it, I personally found it quite annoying.
What troubled me was that it became a form of False Front. It was a professional “mask”, which successfully hid the true feelings from others. But it also became a barrier to genuine personal contact. Christians in ministry moved one step further away from those they met, because the Smiling Mask was artificially applied. Rather than people meeting on a more real level, they met as professional and client.
The Ministry Smile mask caused me to feel unsure of the friendly relationships which were offered me. I was sure that so many people could not all be so deliriously happy to meet me. I suspected that some of them might have liked to tell me they disagreed with something I taught, or had personal concerns they needed to discuss. Instead, all I ever met was that blasted smile.
Personal PR Front
An Australian pastor visited a friend in the USA many years ago and complemented his friend on the quality of the church members. The Aussie said, “I wish I had people like this in my church back home.” His American counterpart confided in him, “These people are exactly the same as yours, with exactly the same problems, but they have learned how to put on a front to cover it all up!”
Sadly, image has become a major consideration in life today. People want to have the right “look”. Their “front” or mask is usually much more carefully crafted and maintained than their grandparents ever thought necessary. More expensive beauty enhancements are used. Men now put product in their hair. People now inject botox into their skin, and have plastic surgery, while faking their hair colour.
Is there anyone out there who is not afraid to be who they are?
Christians don’t need masks. People who are free don’t need masks. Why would you put a false front over a beautiful view?
When we enter into our glorious liberty (wonderful freedom) as God’s children we can throw the masks away. Our pain is healed. Joy fills our heart. The smile on our dial beams from a heart that is full and strong.
Then, when we are under pressure, we can be open and honest about it. We don’t need to keep up a PR image. We are not “marketing” ourselves, but simply BEING ourselves. We can share our realness with other people’s reality, and bless them by our inner wholeness.
People with “liberty” are not afraid to go grey, grow old, admit they don’t know something, laugh at their mistakes, publicly share their failures as a lesson for others and live un-intimidated lives.
A Culture in Fear
While I can understand Rejected people feeling great pressure to cover up their pain, why do others feel such pressure to lie about themselves? Who is it that intimidates them so powerfully?
It seems we have a whole culture that has come under the tyranny of fear. The fear of rejection and being put down by the culture itself seems to drive perfectly valuable people to live as if they need others to affirm them.
I pray that God so heal our culture that it celebrates His grace, lives in His presence and radiates the glorious liberty that only comes from Him.