Christians: Fire Your Image Consultant

pinocchioWe tend to forget how much spin goes on in Hollywood and Washington. Both communities are awash in public relations specialists and image consultants who work hard to form public perception about their clients.

When a senator’s poll numbers start getting shaky, these professionals jump into action. Whether they’re leaking a couple pics from the 10-minute charity photo-op or pulling together a confessional press conference complete with a supportive and stoic wife, popular opinion is shaped by these illusionists.

Fire your image consultant

The truth is, we’re all our own image consultants and so much of our behavior is about self promotion, spin, and damage control. We’re constantly looking for ways to amplify our success, diminish our failures, and encourage others to think the best of us.

What if maintaining our glittering image is not only unnecessary, but detrimental? The New Testament doesn’t just talk about the bad we need to avoid—we’re regularly warned of the dangers and temptations inherent in the good we do.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus warns against pointing out our virtues. From giving to the poor to practicing spiritual disciplines, we’re encouraged toward secrecy.

Keeping the right secrets

The danger of collective set of community values lies in how easy it is to manipulate them to our advantage. And you’d better believe this is alive and well in Christianity.

We want to be loved and we want people to think highly of us. For Christians it’s often as easy as:

Flaunting our biblical knowledge
Highlighting our selflessness
Drawing attention to our perfect families
Spotlighting our hatred of sin
And hiding our brokenness

It doesn’t take too long before we learn the supreme art of misdirection, and cover our depravity under piles of distracting false Christian idealism.

3 Steps to healthy, God-honoring transparency
Keep your best secrets

Paul warns the church in Philippi to do nothing from empty conceit. It’s good advice. We need to be honest about our motives in who, when, and how we share our victories. Our need to be seen in the best possible light can be our undoing.

Trumpeting the good we do can disengage it from its original motivation. Perhaps, inspired by our desire to please God, we strike up a relationship with a homeless shelter but can’t resist the opportunity to post about it on Facebook. Jesus says that the “Likes” and “attaboys” you receive by doing so become your reward. Be careful!

Leave it to God to decide who finds out about your benevolence—do good for goodness’ sake.

Practice confession

There’s humility to be found in being honest about our darkness. Living duplicitously saps us of our vitality and is ultimately exhausting. Find trustworthy spiritual friends you can tell the truth to.

James encourages us to practice confession because of its healing qualities. It’s true, bringing to light those things we’d rather hide is good practice. It releases us from feeling that we need to spin the truth to make us look better than we are, and helps encourage us toward self discipline.

Stop defending yourself

If learning to do good without telling others about it is about keeping the right secrets, then learning not to rush to your own defense is secret keeping 2.0.

Much of our reputation is illusory. We’re neither as saintly or demonic as our reputation might suggest. Our desire to ensure the opinions of those around us are always positive opens us up to danger.

Doctors of the church, following Christ’s example, placed a high premium on trusting God to defend us. Our job was to follow him and serve others. If, our reputation was at risk in doing so, it was because we need to allow God opportunity to move—or because he wanted to remove from us the snare of placing too much stock in the shifting and contrary opinions of others.

If you do wrong, be open to correcting it and making restitution.
If someone attributes undeserved goodness to you, correct them.
If someone undeservedly discredits you, allow room for God to defend you.

In an era of social media, fighting pride and elevating humility can be difficult—but it’s worth it. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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