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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

No More False Face

Maybe it’s happened to you when you didn’t even have a name for it.

Someone you trusted did a 180 revealing a dark side you never saw when you looked at them through the bright lens of love and respect. The teenager who yessed you to your face while breaking faith with you – and the law – behind your back. The close friend catting away about others until you discovered your name wasn’t safe in their mouth either. The spouse who put his arm around you in public and his fist in your face at home.

It’s called a sucker punch - a sudden blow to the gut that comes without warning. But who’s the sucker?

A friend who worked nights as a supermarket stocker once told me it’s common practice when items are out of stock for employees to move adjacent items over to hide the empty space, a practice called “false face.” To false face is to mask the fact that something is missing.

Fakery is everywhere in contemporary culture, where social media follows substitute for the popularity we craved in middle school. We know what we view on our social media feeds doesn’t always resemble real life, but where life gets wonky is when we begin to “false face” in real life: pretending to be someone we truly are not. Presenting one image to the world when a camera turned inward would capture someone quite different. Moving things around on the shelves of our lives in order to hide the fact that something vital has gone missing.

Our integrity.

Integrity is a character attribute without a dark side. A person of integrity is one who’s not only honest but honorable. Down to earth while morally upright. Of good character even when in bad company.

A beautifully whole person.

A pastoral search committee once asked me in a phone interview how I would describe my husband, their leading candidate. I could have commented on the quality of his sermons or his love for his family. Instead I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “He’s a man in whom there is no guile.” Mike’s personal integrity has always been the foundation on which my trust in him rests.

The phrase comes from the gospel of John in the account of Jesus calling his disciples. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he knew him to be a man of integrity. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!’”

To be guileless is to be an individual without deceit, innocent of any hidden agenda. The One who saw through to Nathaniel’s heart said of him, “Not a false bone in his body.” (John 1:47 MSG)

No false face either.

You know what, friends? We can’t often prevent the sucker punch that comes from being betrayed, deceived, or bamboozled. But what we can do is to guard our own integrity. Better to be betrayed than to be a betrayer, to be deceived than to be a deceiver.

Most of us would never be tempted to murder, rob, or intentionally harm another individual. But personal integrity is tested in the small things of life —the subtle, socially acceptable little sins our culture not only accepts but encourages.

The white lie. The casual gossip. The “borrowing” of office supplies. Scripture warns us of the cost of deception. “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” (Luke 16:10)

We sell our integrity for so little.

But Christ came to give us so much more. He died that we might live not just somehow, but abundantly. Exuberantly, without fear of others discovering our dark corners. Living as gloriously whole persons. Living with no regrets.

Integrity is doing the right thing for the right reason as we align our actions with God’s character.

- Adapted from This Life We Share: Journeying Well with God and Others by Maggie Wallem Rowe, coming next May from NavPress. @2019

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