In the hour before guests come to my house, you will often find me rushing throughout my house, making last-minute preparations to assure that no one will see that we actually live...the way we live.
At our house, the counters and kitchen table are often cluttered with unsorted mail and half-empty (or half-full?) cups. Sweaters are draped over chairs and shoes lie abandoned in the living room. When guests are on the way, I frantically toss coats and shoes in the hall closet instead of taking them upstairs to put them away. I move stacks of papers to the bedroom instead of sorting through them and keeping only what we need. I genuinely work up a little bit of a sweat dashing around trying to make the house “presentable” for other people.
It’s hard work pretending to have it all together.
Although I work really hard to hide it, I know my own failures all too well. I put more work into making people think I’m organized and responsible than...actually getting things organized and being responsible.
Online, it’s easy to hide behind a barrage of cheerful Facebook posts and a slew of Instagram filters and pretend like life is great, like I am great. Still, on the inside, I know that my thoughts can be ugly and my actions are often self-serving. I am acutely aware of my shortcomings, but pride and shame compel me to put more effort into maintaining an admirable image of myself for other people and less into humbling myself and growing in Christlikeness.
Pride and shame might seem like contradictory emotions. Pride gives you and good self-image, and shame gives you a bad one, right? I actually find that they fuel one another. I am too proud to reveal the things that I am ashamed of. My pride leads to fear. Just as I’m afraid that other people would be disgusted to see our house a mess, I also fear that they would be repulsed if they saw the messiness of my heart as well. Worldly wisdom tells me to hide my flaws to protect myself: but God’s Word says something different:
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13
When pride tempts us to hide our failures, we are called to confess and forsake our sinful choices so that we are free to receive God's gift of mercy. How many of us really practice this? I'm embarrassed to confess something as frivolous as an untidy house, and now I have to own up to actual sin as well? It seems like a tall order, but it comes with the promise of healing:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
On our own, it's easy to be trapped in the lie that we will never truly be healed of our sins. And while it's true that, this side of eternity, we will continue to struggle with temptation, we can trust in God's mercy, and our faith will be credited to us as righteousness (Romans 4:5). We need other Christians speaking Truth into our lives, encouraging us in the faith, and admonishing us to growing in Christlikeness. That cannot happen when we hide the reality of our sins. We are not called to live in fear and shame, but to seek the Lord and have freedom:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
What an amazing promise! We can become unwavering women, free of fear, when we seek the Lord and look to Him. We will defeat pride and shame by being fearlessly humble, intentionally valuing our righteousness over our reputation.
I'm definitely going to keep cleaning my house before people come over. It's kind of necessary. Still, I hope that, over time, my motivation will be to create a hospitable environment for my guests, not just to hide what I'm embarrassed about. I also know that it would be unwise to bare my soul to everyone, but my prayer is that God will continue to bring fellow believers into my life who will encourage me to grow in humility and be free from fear. I pray that you will seek and find that in your life as well!
Do you ever feel trapped by pride and shame? How have you experienced healing in this area?