I bet it's happened to you, too.
You dash to the grocery store for an item featured on sale only to find a substitute product in its shelf-space. A friend who worked nights as a supermarket stocker told me it’s common practice in the retail industry. If something is out of stock, employees 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 followings substitute for the popularity we craved in middle school. Entrepreneurs feed attention-addiction by providing photo ops designed to look as if the subject is glamming it up in a tropical location or flying in a private jet that in reality is simply a stage prop.
We know what we view on our social media feeds doesn’t always resemble real life.
We delete photos we think make us look fat or tired or old. We don’t record the moments the dog poops on the carpet or the baby projectile-vomits all over the kitchen. We post #happy shots of weddings and vacations and cute kids and you know what? That’s okay. We share what we’re comfortable with. If our messes are made by others, best not to broadcast them anyway.
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.
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!’” (John 1:47 KJV)
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.”
No false face either.
Most of us would never be tempted to murder, rob or intentionally harm another person. But 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 with no regrets.
Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, "You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world. Let it even triumph. But not through me."
If we add to or subtract from the truth, it's no longer true. The next time I'm tempted to put on a false face or to "fake fine," I pray instead that the character God desires for each of us will show through instead.
Taken from This Life We Share by Maggie Wallem Rowe. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
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