I am sure you have seen it by now, the viral “Dancing Dad” video. If not, take a moment to watch it here:
Besides being adorable, the video reveals a dad willing to let down his guard with his young children. He is being real, setting aside his manly-man-ness, to have some fun.
If he is anything like me, though, my guess is he’s not likely to do the same with others. Whether with his wife, buddies or workmates, I’m sure it takes a couple of beers to get him to the point of relaxing enough to risk the humiliation of such behaviour.
Goofing off like this does not have to be humiliating. It can be if those around us don’t meet us in the moment, being real themselves and letting down their guard.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wear masks relevant to certain contexts —I’m a certain person at work, a certain person at the running club, a certain person with my biker mates, which are all quite different from how I am with my kids when no one else is looking. In this way, masks help us to navigate certain relationships and roles, and can therefore be appropriate. The problem is that they can also hinder depth and satisfaction in relationships.
The writer of Proverbs admitted as much, when he wrote:
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Our “heart” is the centre of our being, the core of our personality. It is the foundation for what we think and what we feel. Our heart can be easily hurt, though, so we must protect it. Hence, the use of masks.
What we do and how we behave comes from our heart. The people around us know that they can get cues as to our personality by watching the way we behave. Thus, to protect our heart, we act in certain ways, in certain situations, with certain people. This can be protective but our relationships are limited in so doing.
I myself find it overwhelmingly freeing to know that, no matter how hard I try, God can see my heart:
I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.
“How is this freeing?”, you might ask. I find it freeing because I know that I am totally exposed to God and there is nothing I can do about it. He knows me, no matter how I act.
Despite my behaviour, he accepts me and wants better for me when I behave poorly. Knowing that he accepts me unconditionally, in this way, helps me to relax my guard around others because I don’t really need their approval.
If you want better relationships, be real by being open with who you are, what you think, what you feel. Be real, though, in a way that is appropriate to the situation. Perhaps it’s not good for me to get up from my desk at work and start singing as if in a karaoke. It would not be appropriate to swear out loud while I’m running, even though I’m out of breath and my calves are tight, as kids and respectable adults are also running along the same track. My motorcycle club does not drink when wearing our colours because we know that many bikers struggle with drugs and alcohol. We want to show that the excessive abuse of drugs and alcohol, which tends to go along with the biker culture, is not really necessary.
Let me repeat: Being real is important for better relationships; yet, do so in appropriate ways at appropriate times. If you feel a hesitation at being real with someone in some situations, keep in mind that God thinks you’re pretty special. He may not always like what you do or the choices you make, but he is your creator, as much as he is mine, and God wants nothing but the best for us.
Remember the freedom exhibited by the dancing dad as the joy radiated from his daughter’s face. Being real can be worth it!
In what ways have you hidden your heart from others? Who have you hidden your true self from? When was the last time you were real with someone?