God knows us intimately, is with us all of the time, and is quick to forgive. He loves us and desires to help us. We know these things, yet still have the urge to hide from him and others when we make mistakes. From our earliest days, we choose hiding over honesty. Toddlers hide under tables with stolen snacks or in corners when they’ve broken something. Young children lie with all their might even in the face of mountains of proof.
This doesn’t stop as we get older. We’re so desperate to be seen as mature, perfect, or having it all together that we’re willing to protect that image at any cost. We hide our messiness and flaws, terrified that if we reveal them, we’ll get in trouble or be rejected by others. We want so much to belong that we’re willing to do whatever it takes, even hiding our true selves and pretending to be things we aren’t.
The Urge to Hide
My desire to conceal my shortcomings or flaws has been in place since I was a child, but the urge to hide has been around since the beginning of creation. When Adam and Eve messed up in the garden, they tried to hide from God. Adam said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Gen. 3:10 NIV). The impulse to hide our mistakes or our true selves has been a struggle ever since sin entered the world.
After being tricked into admitting a bad grade on a test and then being teased for my poor performance by a classmate in third grade, I buckled down on my school work, determined never again to be ridiculed for having a bad test day. My grades became impeccable, but something also changed inside me. I began to define myself and my worth by my academic performance. I couldn’t allow myself to slack off or make a mistake because I believed that mockery was waiting just around the corner. Once, in fifth grade, I thought I’d forgotten to complete a homework assignment. I became so nervous and upset that I had to rush to the bathroom because I felt like I was going to vomit. No child should have such a visceral reaction to something so insignificant, but I was holding tightly to my carefully crafted image of being a stellar student. I feared that if I wasn’t above reproach, I would be viewed as worthless.
I’d like to say that the knowledge that perfection is an illusion and the fact that everyone makes mistakes has helped me to loosen my grip on keeping a flawless persona. However, there are still times in my life when I feel the same fear and shame creep in, causing me to try to hide a mistake rather than owning it and moving forward. Part of me is still trying to stay impervious to criticism, and it’s exhausting.
The imagined consequences of admitting my mistakes are often much greater than the actual outcomes. The attempt to avoid repercussions often increases their severity more than if I’d confessed immediately. It also causes greater emotional turmoil because I have wasted so much time ruminating on my failure and conjuring up imagined reactions of others.
Read the rest over at The Glorious Table.