Often people have a hard time with intimacy (intimacy = “into me see”) because they feel vulnerable. They would rather deal with ideas than people, and they don’t want others to see who they are. They might feel insecure or care what others think of them. People who feel this way wear what we call social masks to hide who they are and present a facade instead of their true self to others. And sometimes, the mask people wear is the church.
Surely, you have seen some of these folks:
- instead of communicating their true feelings, they use hackneyed cliche phrases (that are uniquely Mormon) to fit in
- they give the VT lesson never deviating to share their own true feelings unless those feelings could have been uttered by Julie Beck herself
- they prefer the standard Sunday School answers rather than thinking and sharing their own reflections
- they exercise a form of brand management: doing the things that spell out “I’m a good Mormon,” and hiding anything that detracts from that image
- they are excessively careful of everything they say and do from a PR standpoint for the church
What would you do if every time you wanted to talk to your spouse, you had to consider the church in the relationship? What if every time your child wanted advice from you, you referred them to what a church leader said or taught instead of sharing yourself with them? What if every relationship was colored by your feelings of guilt or anticipation related to your own spiritual standing?
- Every family member or friend’s struggle would be a sign of your guilt for having failed them OR a sign that you should cut them off so you will not be tainted by association.
- Every new person you met would be an opportunity for a convert rather than a friend (and if not a convert, not a friend).
- You would carefully choose your words and deeds to demonstrate to others around you that you are living up to what you think they expect.
- If you ever did disagree with someone, you’d have to make sure that somehow your disagreement put YOU on the side of the church and THEM on the other side.
- If your spouse suddenly stopped attending church or became disaffected, you would stop loving them because they jeopardized your “perfect” image or your expectations for the Celestial Kingdom.
Matthew quotes Jesus as saying (Matt 10:34-37):
34 Think not that I am come to send apeace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
It seems that this comes with a few caveats:
- The church does not equal Jesus, even if one believes Jesus is at the head of it. The church is a human institution that should ideally inspire us and draw us closer to Him.
- It’s pretty arrogant to put yourself (or your perceptions) in the role of Jesus and to assume that anyone who disagrees with you is rejecting you as the Savior was rejected.
- Being righteous does not equal being right. In fact, once you start getting too concerned about the latter, you can kiss the former goodbye.
- The greatest two commandments are to love God and our fellow man as ourselves. If we can’t even unconditionally love those closest to us (family and friends), how can we expect to love our enemies (also required)?
- “Perfect love casteth out fear.” We can’t love people if we are consumed by fear of rejection (from either man or God).
Is this a particular problem in the church? Do people really live their lives like this? Do you know anyone like this? Are you like this sometimes? How do you take off the mask and “let your light so shine”? Discuss.