Don't Promote a False Self

July 27, 2017

By Erin Bird

When I lived in Denver, CO, back in the early 2000s, I started a side-business with a friend doing website design. We primarily designed small custom websites for churches, new books, small businesses, and more.

However, one of the gigs my business partner landed was for a large school district. They wanted an online system for tracking student attendance and inputting grades, while also allowing teachers to apply for a substitute teacher for the days they were going to be absent. (Keep in mind, this was back in the toddler years of the Internet – nothing like this existed yet.)

To be honest, this type of project was beyond us. Neither of us knew any database code to develop something of this magnitude. We were just a small two-man shop that did small websites. But the money for this deal was 10x more than anything else we had ever done - so my friend said “yes” to the job.

The plan was for me to design the interface while hiring out the database work. That turned out to be a disaster. The first database guy took our money and did a horribly shoddy job. The second guy backed out after seeing the awful code from the first guy. And the third guy attempted to “fix” the work of the first guy - the day before we were supposed to present our “work” to the client.

I felt awful. While my work on the graphic user interface was fine, I knew the database code underneath was a mess. I wanted to walk into the client meeting, personally apologize, and give the client their money back for not giving them a functional system.

But my friend felt otherwise. He walked into the presentation acting as if we had everything under control. He faked his way through the presentation, and somehow impressed the clients, even though everything we were showing them was basically a sham.

Can you believe it?

And yet, how often do you and I do the exact same thing through Facebook and Instagram? We make things appear like everything is great, but underneath, things are a mess. In other words, we are a sham.

Shine Like Stars

We are in a series here on the blog about “How to Follow Jesus Online” and today we conclude the series with “Don’t Promote a False Self.”

Our key passage for this series is from Philippians chapter 2. Take a moment to reread it one more time:

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life.

(Philippians 2:12-16a)

I recently heard an interview with Tony Hale, a television star known for some iconic roles, such as Buster in Arrested Development and Gary Walsh in Veep. He was asked what it’s like to go to Starbucks and be recognized after years of being an unknown. Tony replied with something profound.

He said everyone has a need to be known. That need is what propels some people to pursue fame. If they become famous, they think they’ll become “known.”

But just because a person gets recognized standing in line at Starbucks doesn’t mean they are truly known. That’s why Tony has intentionally started a small group for other actors to support one another, so that each of them are known beyond their work. In his group, you can’t be fake. You have to truly let the small group know how you are doing.

Tony went on to point out an irony of the world’s most famous celebrities. Some of them got into their business to be “known,” yet now they spend their days in homes with high fences and gates, cars with dark windows, and they wear sunglasses and hats in public to avoid people. Their celebrity self keeps them from being truly known.

When you promote a false self, it puts you in a similar position. You think that your great Facebook post or Instagram photo will get you more likes or make you more popular, but it actually keeps people at a distance because they aren’t getting to know the real you.

Now, let me caution you from just putting everything out there. To dump your junk on social media for everyone to see, is just as unhealthy as lying. What you need is a few close friends you can open up to, who will love you and speak truth into your life.

That’s why we encourage everyone in the Riverwood family to get into a Growth Group. In a Growth Group, you not only study the Scripture together, but you pray for one another. It’s the perfect place to be real, so that you can be truly known.

So don’t promote a false self online. Instead, develop friendships where you can be authentic and truly known and loved for who you are.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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