Posted by: Brad Stanford | January 14, 2010

Image

As a leader of a family, of a business, and other places in life, I occasionally have to deal with being misunderstood.

Ok – in reality, I deal with that a lot more than occasionally. More like every day. And so do you.

On the one side, you have a world telling you to promote an image, especially the one that advertisers want you to have. And to some degree, all of us dabble in this, be it a little or a lottle. So there is always this fake side of us out there somewhere. And for those who use an image as a hiding place, well that can work well for a very long time, perhaps all your life, if that’s all you spend your energy on.

On the other side, a non-polluted, freshly-made human desires to be known deeply, and appreciated for who they are. But that requires a deep trust and vulnerability that is difficult to obtain. It can be done, but it takes a lot of work.

So we end up having this hypocritical mix of wanting to hide and wanting to not. Typically, what happens t us when we are out in the open dictates how much time we spend behind our images.

With blog, facebook, twitter, business, family, and church interactions, I have ample opportunity to be misunderstood. There are those who are unable to shake the image of the high-school me. There are those who don’t know anything but the young-twenty me. There are those who just met me this week. There are those who know me as deeply as possible, and yet still don’t have the full picture of Brad, since I don’t either. And the whole time, the man I want to be is fighting the man I was designed to be, trying to work that all out, making for another method for me to be awkwardly exposed.

Most of the time, this ends well. Sometimes, it’s just disappointing. Feelings can get hurt. A few times, I’ve had to walk away from a relationship, or a relationship has walked away from me. I hate that, but in the end, there’s nothing left to do but press ahead for both parties. What’s done is done, and it is what it is. That person might continue to hate or pity me, and I have no desire to try and change that image of me in their minds. Each day has enough work of its own.

You know what I’m talking about, right? See, one of the lies of the enemy is that we are alone in this experience. That only we are messed up, and everyone else has it all together. This is why society as a whole buys into talk shows and supermarket magazines. People want to know that there is someone more embarrassed than them, because it takes the focus off of…us:

I know I’ve got some business relationships to work on, but did you see what Tiger Woods did?
Sure I need to stop participating in such and so, but did you hear about [a famous person]’s problems?

The collapse of someone else’s image, or the sudden exposure of a fraud serves as temporary numbing agent for our own fragile images, and satisfies our need to know that we’re not alone – replacing pain with addiction (pain) like we tend to do.

Maybe it’s more personal: I want my wife and kids to enjoy what I’m doing alongside me. I want them to understand me so that assumptions are kept out, and communication is always in. I want them in the tough moments to be able to trust and follow joyfully because they know I’m doing what’s best for all of us.

The truth is, this is a planet of messed-up people. We are all fallen.

  • Business people are afraid of being gypped because they’ve been gypped in the past.
  • Families are afraid to follow because Dad’s been wrong – or even a different person – before.

There is a lot to be afraid of. There is a good reason for people to stay hidden behind an image. I certainly don’t judge people for doing so. Living is difficult, and most of us are just coping as best we can. As if I needed to tell you that.

Even the redeemed ones fight every day not to present a holy image, but to admit that they are fallen, so that something better – the best, in fact – will have room to shine through instead. It is in the humility of being completely exposed to the rest of the world that God is glorified, for it is in our weaknesses He is shown to be strong. That’s not an easy place either. Even in being completely honest, the world assumes you are doing so for your own gain, or else you would not do it. Every “good” thing you do thereafter is seen through that lens.

I really can’t change what people think. Jesus did everything right, and yet it was all too easy to stir up the people against Him to kill Him. People are fallen, and can be influenced against me despite my best efforts. Even in my reputation, I have to trust God. If His was tarnished (and still is) then what makes me think that I will escape the same fate, especially if I am to join in His suffering? Indeed, I have spent much energy in my life trying to keep a good image, and not being so successful. And even as I try to let go of doing that, presenting an image is so culturally normal, it’s difficult to recognize when I’m doing it again.

But God is faithful to show us:

  • He’s shown me in recent days when I’ve been more concerned about me than others. Ouch! But true. Thank you, God for revealing those things!
  • He’s shown me where I’m worrying about things that were out of my control anyway. Thank you! It’s a relief to not carry those burdens anymore.
  • He’s shown me that He alone changes hearts, not me. Thank you, God, that it’s your responsibility, and not mine, like I used to think it was!

With image management, there is increased responsibility as you get older. It becomes more and more difficult, until, like Howard Hughes, you end up hiding away, never to be seen again, for that’s an easier image to manage. But with humility before God, it becomes a lighter and lighter burden. He separates clearly what is yours and what is His, allowing you to focus all your energy on the few things that are yours. He handles sin, guilt, reputation, food, clothing, shelter, job, relationships…and basically everything else. Then whatever is left is yours, and even then He whispers in your ear how to do them! But the price is your image, and the ability to control it. Like Job, you can be used by God to look like a fool, a loser, a sinful man – to prove a heavenly point that you will not be privy to until you get there.

If I want to maximize my existence, I have to resist the urge to to defend the appearance of my cocoon, and wait for the butterfly to emerge. That will speak for itself. Ultimately, the life after this one is where the fullness of each one of is is revealed. No more flaws, no more surface images, just perfect designs all declaring how great a designer God really is. In the meantime, I have to take it on the chin when I mess up, when I’m misunderstood, or both. It’s out of my hands – thankfully.

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Responses

  1. Wow Brad! I really liked and agreed with everything you said here. Especially the last paragraph. I have to remind myself of this every single day….fighting this fight as well.

    Thank you for posting this!

    Melissa Sones

  2. I hear that..

  3. refreshing. encouraging. both of which i needed today. thanks.


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