Since her passing a few days ago, many colorful words have been used to describe the life of Joan Rivers. Indeed, she was hilarious. She was quick-witted. She was a trail-blazer, a pioneer. She was brazen.
But after watching a documentary of her life filmed a few years ago, the word that has kept coming to my mind when I think of her is insecure. She appeared to be driven by an insatiable desire to be loved and accepted by others. It seemed she didn't just want people to laugh at her routine, she needed them to laugh. Criticism sent her reeling.
Although she denied the 2002 Huffington Post report that she had undergone over 700 "procedures," Rivers at least was honest that she had had plastic surgery. I found that quite refreshing, especially in a Hollywood culture where lying about nose jobs and botox injections is second nature--even when the physical evidence of such enhancements cannot be disputed.
Yet, the fact remains, that even though Joan Rivers went to great lengths to build a face and body that defied her eighty-plus years, she was never secure enough in who she was to leave well enough alone.
Have you ever found that it takes much more effort and energy to pretend to be someone you're not than to simply be who you really are?
Yet, so often--in an effort to win the approval of others-- we find ourselves wearing masks. We are insecure in who we are. More frequently than we would like to admit, we go to great lengths to prevent others from seeing the "real" us.
The driving force behind our insecurity is often a deep-seated fear of being rejected. We tell ourselves, If they knew who I really was they would want nothing to do with me. So we spend our lives projecting a false image of who we are. And we lose ourselves in the process.
In ancient Greece, theater troupes often wore masks which exaggerated facial features and expressions. The masks, called hupos, prevented audience members from knowing the true identity of the person wearing it, enabling actors to play several different roles in the same play.
The Greek actors behind the hupos were known as hupokrites. If that word looks familiar, it should. It's where we get the word hypocrite.
In the Christian culture, hypocrite is a label we like to hang on people whose walk doesn't match their talk; who are quick to point out the blemishes in others without ever looking into a mirror themselves. The biblical Pharisees are a case in point. If anyone personified sheer hypocrisy, it was those self-righteous Pharisees.
But perhaps we would be wise to take a closer look at the definition of the word. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something they’re not; someone who is false; someone who hides who they really are.
The moment we insist that the word does not describe us we prove that it does. As the Apostle Paul so eloquently writes, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Despite our best efforts to hide our shortcomings, we all come up short. But because being brutally honest with ourselves and others might reveal flaws we don't want to admit we have, we often come to the false conclusion that it is less painful to simply pretend we have our spiritual act together. That is commonly called living a lie. And that makes us hypocrites.
The opposite of hypocrisy is sincerity. The word sincere comes from Latin word sincerus which means without wax.
Early Romans who sold pottery would often come across jars that had cracks. It was a common practice for merchants to use colored wax to fill in cracks so the imperfections would be hidden from prospective buyers. But it didn't take long for buyers who had been deceived to begin holding the jars out in the sun before making a purchase. If the jars had filled-in cracks, the sun's rays would melt away the wax and the flaws would be revealed.
To prove their honesty, merchants began labeling their pottery sincerus, or, without wax.
We all need relationships in which we can be free to be who we truly are--relationships that are genuine, authentic, and real. We need to be "without wax" in the presence of other people who are "without wax." And if we find that we cannot be ourselves in front of some folks, the answer is not to put on a mask and pretend to be something we're not. The answer is to find other folks--people who will love and accept us despite our flaws.
That's why I love Jesus so much. I don't have to pretend with Him. In fact, I can't pretend with Him. He knows everything about me. He sees what's behind the mask I often wear in front of others. He knows the real me and loves me anyway. That security enables me to be real in an un-real world.