Excerpts from '#3 Revealing Authenticity' in #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World by Craig Groeschel:
It's no exaggeration to say we've become a selfie-obsessed culture.
You can take a picture of yourself, and if you need to touch it up a little, you can apply a filter. Most smart phones now have filter tools that let you fix those little problem areas. You can change the color saturation, brighten the image, soften it, or make it black and white. You can even get rid of red-eye and erase that second chin! You can even change the color of your eyes and raise your cheekbones.
We take picture after picture of ourselves until we can get the perfect one, and then we apply a filter, maybe use an app to edit or crop as needed until we get the image just like we want it.
Selfies seem harmless enough, but I'm starting to wonder how our selfie-obsession might be changing how we relate to one another. For example, the more filtered our lives become - the more we show others only the "me" we want them to see - the more difficulty we have being authentic. One recent study links an alarming increase in plastic surgery to patients' desire to get the "perfect selfie."
But you know what the strangest thing is? Our culture keeps telling us that all of this is perfectly acceptable. After you've filtered your picture, you have to take time to create the perfect caption. It has to be clever, but not too clever. While you have to get it just right, you have to make it look like you're not trying too hard. Then you have to choose exactly the right hashtag to achieve maximum impact. After all, you're about to put your filtered self out there so the rest of the world can affirm you.
But before long, you might find yourself wondering whether they would like the real you.
Pictures aren't the only things we're becoming used to controlling, thanks to technology and social media. We have the luxury of sending an article, text, tweet, or email to virtually anyone we want to communicate with. And we can edit and revise as much as we want before we hit send.
The problem, however, is that many of us have filtered our messages so much that we are no longer comfortable with real, unscripted, spontaneous conversation. We've become so used to the luxury of being able to edit the things we say that some of us really struggle when we have to have normal everyday conversations with and in front of real, live human beings. Technology has given us tools that are unprecedented in human history, but an entire generation is growing up uncomfortable in conversations they cannot control.
Today we have the luxury - hard to say whether it's a blessing or a curse - of being able to decide whether we want to answer a call based on factors we can control. We can see a call come in, send it directly to voice mail, wait for the person to finish leaving a message, and then immediately listen to the voice mail or wait until later.
We have even more choices about responding. We can call the person back or not call back. But what do many of us do? Respond with a text message. Why? Because a text lets us stay in control. We don't have to talk - to experience all of that unnecessary anxiety of not knowing where a conversation might go. We don't have to have a "conversation" at all if we don't want to.
We are all filtering and editing our lives, and the more we do, the more difficulty we have being authentic.
BEHIND THE VEIL
I used to think when I read this story (Exodus 34:29-35) that Moses put on the veil to protect the people from the fear-inspiring glory of God on his face. But if we look more closely at the text (2 Cor. 3:13), we see that he used the veil not to protect the people but to keep them from seeing that the glory was fading. Even Moses, after seeing the glory of God, didn't want others to know he was losing the image.
Paul then makes a comparison (2 Cor.3:14-16). When the old covenant was read, the Jewish people who didn't believe could not see the truth. Why? Because their unbelief blinded them like a veil. But anyone who turns to Christ understands the truth, because he removes this veil and reveals God's glory.
You might wonder how this passage applies to us today. Well, most of us put on a veil of some kind or another to hid the truth about ourselves. We've become skilled at filtering our lives, showing others only what we want them to see. This is similar to what Paul implies Moses did; he hid from the people the fact that God's glory was fading away.
This tendency is part of our sinful nature. When we're insecure, when we don't feel good about ourselves, and perhaps most of all when we sin, instead of confessing, which would set us free and heal us, we tend to hide, to put on a veil, to filter our lives.
So how can we find the courage to remove our veils, reveal the truth about ourselves, and experience the freedom to be ourselves? Paul tells us, "Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Cor. 3:16-18). We can't do this by ourselves. Only Christ can take away the veil.
THE QUIET GAME
That sort of raises the question, "So, Craig, are you saying that we should always be only 100 percent honest and show everything we do on social media?" Yes and no. Yes, we should always try to be honest. But no, we should not show everything on social media. I like Beth Moore's perspective: "Be authentic with all. Transparent with most. And intimate with some."
Here's the bottom line: Everything you say must be true, but not everything true should be said. If I post something, it must be the truth, but we don't need to share everything on social media. Some people are oversharers. You know some, right? They say too much, and you want to tell them to "shutteth thine trap." Not everybody wants to know all of your feelings about every person you know.
So yes, we should remove our veils and tell the truth. But social media is not the place to bare all! Be yourself, but don't feel like you have to share everything you're feeling. Being authentic is not about being brutally honest and confrontational about everything on your mind. But by all means - at the right time, with the right people, and when you're face to face - drop the veil completely. If you don't, you'll always be longing for something more.
When you put on the veil and post something hoping for more Likes, hoping for affirmation, even if you receive it, you're still going to feel empty because you're not being real with people about yourself. But the place to be vulnerable is where God wants you to be vulnerable: in the context of private, life-giving, healthy, God-honoring relationship.
Notice this (2 Cor. 3:14-15): a veil that first covers the face eventually covers the heart. It begins as just a superficial covering, a temporary attempt to cover up a problem rather than addressing it head-on. But left unchecked, the hidden problem will become a serious spiritual condition.
SURRENDER YOUR SELFIES
You may be acting the part and playing the role, but in your heart of hearts, you know you're not the person you present to the world.
The danger is that we can become so used to showing our filtered self, so accustomed to the half-truths and exaggerations, that we don't even know who our real self is anymore. Until you show who you really are, until you know and are fully known, you're going to be longing for something more.
When we're always filtered, when every selfie shows only our best side, we may impress some people some of the time. But you're not connecting with them. They're not connecting with you. We want so badly to connect with others, and we think the best way to do so is by showing off our strengths. But it doesn't work that way.
We actually connect with people through our weaknesses. We may impress them with our strengths, but we connect through our weaknesses.
I can give you the solution to the problems in this entire chapter with one simple phrase: only Christ can remove the veil.
When we turn to Christ, he removes the veil.
Maybe you're exhausted. You're weary because you've already tried everything else you can think of. You've looked everywhere you can for affirmation. You've turned to one person after another, but you still haven't found that thing you're longing for. This is the promise you have from God, straight from his Word: You don't have to remove the veil. When you turn to Christ, he does it for you!
Then you can finally drop the mask because you're not getting your approval from Likes; you're getting it from his love. You will no longer be living for the approval of people; you will be living from the approval of God. He will reveal the truth: you are acceptable to God through Jesus. You are the righteousness of God in Christ. His grace, his righteousness, is sufficient for you.
When you realise that Christ is all you have, you'll also find that he's all you need. You don't need approval from someone else because you have approval from Christ. When you turn to Jesus, you have the same Spirit that raised him from the dead living within you. Your identity is not connected how many followers you can get. Your identity comes from who you are following, and you are following Jesus.
When we all let the veils fall - because our lives are better when we're together, when we act as the body of Christ, when we allow each other to see the "real" us - we will truly see the Lord's glory.
Why? Because it's not about you and me. It's not about our selfies. The reason we exist is to give him glory. When we do, this Scripture (2 Cor. 3:17-18) says we will begin to be transformed - not into the person we think others want to be but into his image, bringing every-increasing glory.
He'll transform you into the image of Christ, not for approval of people but for the glory of God. We're not called to elevate yourselves (John 3:30); we're called to deny ourselves and follow him (Luke 9:23-24). The way to follow Jesus in a selfie-centered world is to give him glory in all that we do.
Surrender your selfies.
Let Jesus lift your veil.
Excerpts from other chapters in the book:
Chapter 1 - Recovering Contentment
Chapter 2 - Restoring Intimacy