July 10, 2017

When we practice professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues of the heart that we DO NOT really hold or possess, we present hypocrisy. When we practice professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues of the heart that we really DO hold or possess, we inevitably present imperfection. Hypocritical people pretend to uphold a standard. Imperfect people contend to uphold a standard. Pretending people can look perfect, appearing not to struggle with a standard. Contending people can be judged as hypocrites because of the imperfections that are evident as they struggle with a standard. What an irony.

Hypocrisy literally means to wear a mask of sincerity. The mask is artfully manufactured. It hides the truth of one’s own heart. Sincerity means without wax, that is, the cracks show. Even the greatest sculptors used wax to cover or hide the inevitable imperfections that occur when working with stone. They were able to present static forms of perfection by using wax to hide reality.  

Relationships, of course, are not sculptures, not set in stone, not static, never perfect, and cannot thrive in hypocrisy. They are alive. To live and grow, they require that the masks be removed, that the cracks show.  Hypocrisy can destroy them. Imperfection, however, can bless them, and the beliefs, feelings, and virtues that real relationships contend with.  

Relationships are in movement, presenting at different times the good, the great, the bad, the regrettable, the ugly, and the unforgettably beautiful. They are works in progress, notable by the struggle to uphold a standard of intimacy and integrity. They can benefit and can thrive through admission of imperfection about strongly held beliefs, feelings, and virtues that hold the relationship together. Only through sincerity—admission of imperfection—do they grow into what they can become.

They can become a safe place to struggle with heart, a place to grieve deeply and celebrate completely. In other words, they can become the place in which the face shows the fullness of the heart. Instead of the place of suffocating hypocrisy.

When a couple makes wedding vows, the promise to each other is a commitment to strongly held beliefs, feelings, and virtues as a standard that all will fail in a multitude of forms. Nevertheless, the vows are an expression of beliefs, feelings, and virtues that we contend to uphold, and we experience, ultimately, that we cannot do so without cracks. Those people who can take the vow sincerely, with its inevitable growing pains, can gain persevering characteristics.

By contending with failure, we can gain the persevering characteristics of mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance, and empathy that make the standard a touchstone by which we know the pains of imperfection and its potential benefits. The admission of imperfection allows our faces to reflect our hearts in the darkest times and the brightest times.

Again, relationship is no sculpture. It is the dogged, sloppy, clumsy pursuit of the other’s heart, and the struggle of allowing one’s own heart to be pursued. Through the standard of deeply held beliefs, feelings, and virtues do we experience imperfection. And through our willingness to contend with imperfection, we can find its benefits. In so doing, we grow in sincerity of heart.

Our faces are made to express our hearts. The proverb says that as a person thinks in their heart, so is the person—the sincere, imperfect person. Hypocrites run from their hearts; therefore, we (I say “we” because all of us wear masks at times; the struggle to remove them is the difference-maker) wear masks that hide what we know we fear, or hide from what we don’t want to know that we fear. Hypocrites present an unlivable pose. Somewhere we gathered the idea, sadly, that unless we can convince others of what we cannot live up to ourselves, that we will lose the deal, lose the following, lose the money, lose the scholarship, lose our standing, promotion, job, marriage, children, friends, i.e., lose the relationship.

Hypocrites profess a standard they cannot live. Imperfect people profess a standard that they can live fully as a touchstone that requires lots of forgiveness and mercy amidst all of our inevitable flaws.

People who know imperfection as part of living fully in relationship have lives that are sometimes ugly, sometimes bad, and sometimes really, really good. They are alive. They are not sculptures that require lots and lots of additional wax, which will eventually bury the heart of life’s struggle.