We want to be known, but we want to hide. A friend of mine wrote of a recent experience:

We want to be known, but we want to hide.

We shook hands warmly before leaving the restaurant. I had a great time meeting with this man.A true brotherhood was developing. That’s why what he said was so shocking.

“I’m really enjoying getting to know you,” he said. I smiled my approval. Then he added, “It’s been especially good to see your human side.”

My “human side”? Just what else was there to see?

He left before my bewilderment could blossom into more conversation. But for days to come, I kept returning to that phrase, “It’s been especially good to see your human side.”

His words stung. They made me face the truth about my “fence”—he impressions I hide behind. It’s an internal electrified barrier energized by the 10,000-volt certainty that I need this protection. If people see the untamed part of me, I’m sure I’ll be rejected.

And yet my friend was glad to see the power turned off and the gate opened a bit. He actually preferred my rough-edged humanity. All that work to construct a secure enclosure, yet when I let him inside, he didn’t reject me. With the barrier down, I moved toward the very friendship I thought only the barrier made possible.

Go figure.

Why We Hide

I’d like to say that I can’t identify with my friend, but I can—more than I want to admit. We live in a world where image projection and impression management is the rule of thumb, and it gets inside everyone of us. I know that as a teacher I want to be honest and open, but there is such a strong tendency to hide and to want to look better than I am. This truth about me comes out in unguarded moments.

There is a high cost to hiding. If I hide, sin wins.

Several years ago I was with one of my kids in Wisconsin. We were at a store and this particular child kept pestering me for a toy. Finally, my anger boiled over. “No, I’m not going to get you that toy. I’m not going to get it for you today. I’m not going to get it for you tomorrow. I’m not going to get it next month or next year. I am never going to get it for you! Do you understand? When you’re seventy and I’m a hundred years old, I’m still not going to get it for you!”

Just that moment the clerk looked at me and said, “You look awfully familiar. Do you teach at Willow Creek Community Church?”

I said, “Yes, my name is Bill Hybels.” I didn’t really say that, but I wanted to. I wanted to hide. It was awful.

The High Cost of Hiding

We’ll never fully experience community or significant transformation until we begin to acknowledge to others the truth about ourselves. Ironically, churches are often the last place this happens. Consider these words from Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline:

Confession is so difficult a Discipline for us partly because we view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We come to feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. … We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped onto the high road to heaven. Therefore we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy. …

There is a high cost to hiding. If I hide, my relationships become stagnant. If I hide, others are likely to hide too. If I hide, I can never know I’m loved unconditionally. If I hide, sin wins. If I hide, I lose the help I might receive for secret struggles and hurts.

God’s Plan for Community

God says an amazing thing: “In my community, there should be no more hiding, no more masks. My community is just people—every one of whom struggles with sin and does stupid things and says foolish things and then comes to me and confesses, gets back up, moves forward and then fouls up again. People don’t have to pretend they’re something they’re not. I intend for people to live in the light.”

John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson, and Judson Poling, Groups: The Life-Giving Power of Community (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

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