Revisiting an old favorite story, Tina Mayeux reflects on the importance of being authentic with ourselves and others.
In this Instagram world we live in, image is important to most people, and we often reveal only our best side to the rest of the world. No one likes to have their imperfect or sinful side revealed to others. We usually post our most attractive pictures online, not the unflattering ones. In the same way, we often hide our sins and faults from others because we want to be seen in the most favorable light possible.
Like many people, I find it hard to admit to myself and others the sins of my past and those I still fall into from time to time today. However, many of the saints humbly admitted their own faults and failings. Most notably, St. Augustine famously wrote his Confessions, which outlines the journey of his past sinful life to his conversion and redemption. What humility and courage it must have taken for the saint and doctor of the Church to share his darkness and failures with the world in order to enlighten others about God’s grace and mercy! How many of us would offer the details of our sinful past to be published for the world to see?
I think that there is a tremendous freedom that comes when we step out from behind the masks we wear and admit our pride, our greed, our envy, and the other sins we struggle with from day to day. In the Sacrament of Confession, we are able to drop these masks we wear and reveal our deepest secrets and our worst sins without fear of judgment or condemnation, since we are truly confessing them to our Savior who wipes them away through absolution and his Death and Resurrection. Because of His great mercy, we become free from the chains of sins that bind us.
One of my very favorite childhood books is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. In the story, the Rabbit comes to understand the beauty of becoming “Real” and really known and loved by another. When I read this book as a child, I remember being struck by the idea of becoming “Real” to others, as opposed to constantly attempting to create an image of perfection for the world to see, and this idea has influenced me ever since. The story has inspired me through the years to try to be as honest and genuine as possible with others, even when it is difficult. Although I haven’t always succeeded in this transparency, a recent reread of this treasured tale reminded me of these ideals which I had committed to long ago and encouraged me to revisit them through prayer and reflection.
The Rabbit, who was overlooked and forgotten for some of the fancier, more expensive toys in the Boy’s playroom, is befriended by the Skin Horse, who explains to him what being “Real” is all about:
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
The Rabbit learns that real love sees past flaws and appearances and comes from the heart, and that it at times involves sacrifice and pain. When we truly love like Jesus did, we may experience hardship and suffering, but this love is the one way to authentic happiness.
The beautiful lessons in The Velveteen Rabbit taught me that being “Real” with ourselves and others, most importantly with Jesus, is vital to becoming the people God is calling us to be. Being “Real” is an ideal that I have, at times, not lived up to through the years; however, each day is a new opportunity to being again to live a more fully authentic and Christ-centered life. As the Skin Horse reveals to the Velveteen Rabbit, “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Although we may find that we occasionally stumble and fail in our walk with Jesus, He never gives up on us and is always calling us to a deeper relationship and communion with Him. He sees our faults and failings and loves us in spite of them. Through Confession, we can always shed our selfishness and pretense and become more “Real” each time we fall. Through our falls, we come to know ourselves and our weaknesses even better so that we can ask Jesus to change and heal us in the places where we need conversion and growth. When we grow in our relationship with the Lord, we become more like Him and begin to reflect the light and love of Christ to the world.
Copyright 2022 Christina Mayeux