Updated: Sep 8, 2021
In response to one of my blogs, a reader noted that she was thankful she did not have to put on her chapel face with God. I chuckled & thought, ‘How true!” I picture a church full of people, each acting out their chosen persona to sufficiently mask any soul pain they might be experiencing.
This most often includes a rote “I’m fine,” to personal inquiries by others. Relief isn’t felt until you’ve navigated your way to that familiar spot in the pews. You settle in after releasing a big exhale.
This scenario reminded me that being fake is a liability of our humanity. Wearing a chapel face happens more often than we would like to admit. Though practiced predominantly in public settings, it can also happen at home. Our natural flesh response is to hide, to be guarded, to not let people too close. It happens when we assume people expect us to be a certain way. Truthfully, we often act out how we want other people to see us. Most of the time, we hide what is really going on inside. And we find ourselves tied in knots.
I admit that I am reserved with certain people, while feeling emotionally safe with others. Sometimes I just connect. The relationship grows steadily & builds a strong foundation over time. With other folks, it feels like I keep hitting my head against a wall. It feels like starting over every time I see them. We repeat a different version of the same conversation. For clarification, I am not referring to new situations that require lifestyle adjustments. I’m thinking of everyday situations where specific triggers have me faking it before I know it. I know what makes me feel vulnerable, be it a tone of voice or body language. I am aware of it when it happens.
I recall 2 specific game changers that defined the standard for relationships in my mind. Years ago, 2 well-meaning friends shocked me into the reality that maybe I was too trusting. In the beginning years of marriage, my first trusted friend shared our private conversation with another acquaintance. Imagine my sense of betrayal when the third party peppered me with questions about the content of my concerns. I was shocked! And hurt. It was not the way I operated. This exposure became a marker in my mind. I stepped back & watched who shared unnecessary details about other people’s lives & I took note. They would likely do the same about me. “Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who retrains his lips is wise.” (Prov 10:19) I am not above making mistakes in my communications but keeping things simple & to the point often avoids misunderstanding.
Another time & another place, I was meeting a friend for lunch with the hopes of gaining a listening ear. We were in the middle of a multi-faceted spiritual disaster that turned our lives upside down & inside out. Though we were not the source of the problem, we were made aware of the details—not by choice. I felt totally wrung out. I yearned for shared understanding & encouragement. Once we ordered, my friend said something to this effect. “I know you are going through a lot. But I just have to download today.” Then, she proceeded to do just that. I sat nodding my head & feeling numb inside. In my mind, this was a different side of betrayal…one that invalidated my pain, said I didn’t matter & that she didn’t care. Somehow this rejection hurt worse than being gossiped about. This realization became another marker. I was used to listening but I also desired…needed…a friend who listened without their pushing their own agenda. Good listeners look into your eyes. Good listeners know the balance between sharing & staying silent. Good listeners are not distracted by their own stuff. “A man has joy in an apt answer, & how delightful is a timely word!” (Prov 15:23)
Honestly, I sometimes put on my chapel face to avoid conflict. If I don’t say anything, things will move along more quickly. Other times I do not trust the person who is prodding me for more information. Why do they want to know the details anyway? Pride can also stop me from sharing the real me. Exposure of insecurities can be very painful! The truth is, God understands us better than we understand ourselves. Laid broken before Him, we know deep within when we are not fine! I am a merciful person so I feel deeply when I see others hurt, imagining how they might feel (sympathy) or knowing from experience how they do feel (empathy). On the flip side, this means that I get hurt when lack of time given indicates that people do not care about my life. This is when God’s grace & mercy toward me, intersects with extending forgiveness to them. This is not a one-time solution, but rather a never-ending progression. While praying, I sometimes find myself crying. For me, tears are a release, a cleansing before the Lord, that helps keep my chapel face off when I interact with people.
What my reader said is abundantly true! My heavenly Father is my ultimate safe place. My relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, frees me to be real…to be who I am…without hiding. As the roots of His love grown deeper & stronger in my soul, I am free to live without the addition of my people-pleasing chapel face. “I sought the Lord, & He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Ps 34:4)