When a Façade Keeps Us from Redeeming Culture

“Saving face” is a value that is deep-seated in the culture where I live and work. It carries the meaning that the way you appear to the outside world is of utmost importance. So, the way you look, the way you dress, what you drive, and where you work are all status symbols which are infinitely more important than who you are on the inside.

In cross-cultural training, I was taught that saving face was a value specific to Eastern societies. Kind of an us/them perspective, right?

But reading Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly revealed to me that vulnerability is also a thing that the Western world avoids with a vengeance. Using a façade isn’t an East/West thing. It’s a HUMAN thing.

Dr. Brown says:

Yes, we are totally exposed when we are vulnerable. Yes, we are in the torture chamber that we call uncertainty. And yes, we’re taking a huge emotional risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

But there’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness. 

I want to bring up the topic of vulnerability in light of ministry because I believe that out of all people in the world, Christians struggle the most with taking off our masks and practicing transparency.

And I’ll go a step further to say those in cross-cultural ministry may feel the most pressure to hide behind images of perfection.

We’ve supposedly been set free from slavery to fear; yet we walk out our faith on the eggshells of others’ perceptions of our own shortcomings.

If we mess up, what does this teach others about our religious convictions?
If we doubt, what does this show others about our faith in God?
If we are weak, how will we convert others to our ‘way’ of believing?

I’ll tell you what and how.

Our mess-ups teach others about the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of the One who gave us our convictions.

Our doubts show others that our faith has been tested…and continues to stand firm in the midst of uncertainty.

Our weaknesses remind us that we aren’t in the conversion business…that changing peoples’ hearts is the Father’s job.

So without mincing words, I need to say that façades don’t do us a bit of good as we seek to redeem cultures.

We don’t have to protect an image. We don’t have to manufacture results.

We can just take the pressure off and be who we really arenormal people with an extraordinary God.

No guises. No filters. No masks.

Just redeemed people showing the world what it means to be redeemed.

What if transforming a culture was that simple?

Shouldn’t it be?

8 Comments

  1. Erin September 28, 2015

    Living in SE Asia also, I totally get this. These words came at the perfect time. Love it!

  2. Monica F September 28, 2015

    We’ve supposedly been set free from slavery to fear; yet we walk out our faith on the eggshells of others’ perceptions of our own shortcomings.

    Totally.  This rings so true for me and other global workers I know.  I had my own moment of vulnerability last week, when I joined a women’s Bible study at a new fellowship we are attending in the States (we are ‘here’ for the time being).  We were discussing the Sermon on the Mount, and I was sharing about freedom from living up to other people’s expectations and how it’s been an issue in my life.  Everyone’s jaw dropped when I said I was a ‘overseas worker’ in ‘recovery’… silence, then I smiled, and everyone burst out laughing.  I don’t think they knew how to take that, as they quickly admitted that they themselves have perceptions about people who work overseas.  My vulnerability and willingness to share my own struggles blessed me so much- did more for me, then it probably did for them.  So, your post is timely, and great encouragement to me today!

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 30, 2015

      What a great story, Monica! I know you will bless as many people on your own soil as you did overseas…just from being your honest, open self. Fist bumping you!

  3. Cecily September 29, 2015

    Vulnerability requires great boldness, but it’s the only way.  I can’t live a lie.

    The reality is that I live out loud.  LOTS of people don’t like that, and I often feel ashamed after the fact.  Yet I refuse to live a lie.

    Thanks for this post which confirms this truth that I am trying to live!

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 30, 2015

      I am with you on often feeling ashamed for my bold self-expression. But authenticity? I have to have it!

      “Gah, Lauren, why can’t you just shut your mouth??” I say this to myself a lot. But I’m trying to change that into positive self-talk. Brené Brown, girl…changed my life.

  4. Valery October 3, 2015

    Praising God with you in that He alone is our source and strength! Isn’t it great to not have to rely on our own capabilities?! May each day bring us closer to His heart of true love.

  5. Julia April 11, 2016

    Thank you so much for this post. It was just what I needed to hear today. I am looking to go abroad to work and I know my calling is to go, but I am been struggling with a lot of doubts as I have 9 months left in the commitment I have here and I am starting to job search. I found an opportunity but it would involve an actually “overseas worker” status, meaning no actual pay from the job… I would have to be supported from the states… and a real commitment to a church I have never been affiliated with beforehand. They sent me a list of their doctrine that I would have to commit to, to be apart of their ministry… and because of my non-denominational background this totally freaked me out, and I didn’t feel “Christian” enough. I am waiting to schedule a time to actually skype and talk… but this waiting has brought up a lot of my insecurities and being good enough. Anyway, what you said was the truth. God can use my vulnerabilities and imperfections to show His great glory and grace. So, thank you.

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