“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 are—normal 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?