What costume do you wear? Millions of people this weekend will dress up as different characters for Halloween. For many of us, each day we put on a costume. We attempt to project a self-image to others. We can weary ourselves to maintain a self-image.
Costumes keep us from authenticity. To keep up appearances, we create an image of ourselves. A costume keeps us seeing the shadow of ourselves and others. Richard Rohr in Falling Upward says this about projecting a self-image, a shadow:
Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see. The more you have cultivated and protected a chosen persona, the more shadow work you will need to do. Be especially careful therefore of any idealized role or self-image, like that of minister, mother, doctor, nice person, professor, moral believer, or president of this or that. These are huge personas to live up to, and they trap many people in lifelong delusions. The more you are attached to and unaware of a self-image, the more shadow self you will very likely have. Conversely, the more you live out of your shadow self, the less capable you are of recognizing the persona you are trying to protect and project (pg. 128)
Costumes make us shadows of ourselves. They distort reality. Wearing our positions, titles, and roles keep us from knowing others and others from knowing us.
Do people in my community know me? It’s a compelling question for us. Think about the content of your conversation. Often, our togetherness becomes an opportunity to wear the costume and direct the attention to the shadows. We share the highlights while hiding the weaknesses, insecurities, or fears.
Grace releases from the costumes and the shadows. Rather than projecting a persona, we can come to terms with our identity. When we experience the Gospel, we can begin to deal with realities of our weakness and the strength of Christ. We no longer have to weary ourselves with projecting an image to others.
The Apostle Paul makes a powerful statement in I Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…” This statement encapsulates him recognizing his past, faults, and weakness, but also pointing towards the resurrection of Jesus Christ at work in him. He could see the reality of Jesus Christ at work in him.
What changes in us when we no longer need to protect the shadow or the costume?
We can live in authenticity with people around us.
We can become more aware of the grace God has given us.
We no longer have to live up to a perfect image.
We can begin to relinquish the need to defend ourselves.
We can receive the truth and critiques to grow.
We can move our focus off ourselves to begin to see others.
Recognizing the costumes and shadows brings us to realizing the Gospel. We can experience the reality of Christ’s grace. Then we can move from finding our identity in the shadow towards the work of Christ in us.
Photo credit by Inbal Marrili.