Hello, my name is Bill, and I am an approval addict.
Every picture you see of me on here has been handpicked so you never have to see my bad side. Hours in Photoshop means you won’t get to see my acne either. Maybe you’ll like what you see.
That sour note I played in worship on Sunday? I edited it out before the video hit YouTube. Maybe no one will remember it wasn’t a perfect performance.
Not long ago, only movie stars could have their photos airbrushed, and only the biggest recording artists could be forced to sing on key by a rack full of magic gear. Now, all of us curate our lives to present “perfect” selves to each other. It doesn’t even require Photoshop. With a free iPhone app and the swipe of a finger, you can airbrush a photo. Heck, I hear that Samsung phones even turn on a “beauty face” feature by default for selflies. Enlarge eyes? Check. Slim face? Check. Smooth skin tone? Check. The real me? Never has to be seen!
The number of people treated for depression continues to increase, and no wonder why! We’re comparing our real lives to our friends’ fake lives — their carefully curated perfect social media selves. To keep up with them, I airbrush my online life too, perpetuating the pattern. It’s a vicious cycle as my friends now compare themselves to a fake me.
Here’s the funny thing: People actually like it when you’re real. Surprising, I know! Sometimes life forces you to be real, and guess what, the world doesn’t stop spinning. I found this out recently while on stage at church during the biggest service of the year, Easter Sunday. It was a packed house, and I put pressure on myself to deliver a perfect performance. Unfortunately, I cracked under the pressure. We were playing with a video for “Happy Day,” and I started singing the first verse four bars too early. None of the lyrics were going to line up with the song at all if I didn’t stop and start over. Wow, talk about embarrassing!
But you know what? My moment of humility and humanity and honesty was like a breath of fresh air through the church. I said something along the lines of, “That was my bad. I messed that up. You all are doing great.” And we started the song over, as everyone in the crowd cheered. It was the weirdest thing. People clapping for a human moment and the reminder that no one is perfect. In the end, God used it to remind people who hadn’t been to church in a long time that not even the people on stage are perfect. Church isn’t for perfect people (because there are none). It’s for people who realize they mess up and need forgiveness!
I’d like to say there’s a video where you can see all this go down, but true to form, I edited all of that out. All that’s left is the thunderous applause of people cheering my screwup, edited to make it look like I did something good. When will I learn?
Here’s another reason to turn off the filter. Imagine you spent 15 minutes getting the lighting just right for a selfie, touching up the skin tone, cropping out the parts of yourself that you hate, thinking up an unrelated caption you know will get some likes. You sit back and wait a few minutes until your phone blows up like a Vegas slot machine that just hit the jackpot. All those likes! But it still feels hollow. When it’s not the real you they’re liking, does it really even mean anything at all?
Now imagine a different scenario: You get real. You post authentically. You post your bad side. You post something that’s important to you, whether or not it will guarantee a jackpot of likes. If you get a handful of likes, at least those people are liking you and not some made up character.
More important than all of that, though, is the idea that we should not be slaves to public opinion anyway. What matters most is what God thinks. I’ve been learning a lot lately about rooting my self-esteem not in what I do, but in who I am. Thanks to Jesus, I am a beloved child, a forgiven saint, a servant-messenger entrusted with the most important news of all time!
I have to accept that even if I mess up, God can still work through me. We saw that in the Easter video above. Here’s another example. In the video below, you’ll see our carefully crafted Good Friday service. I spent so much time programming lighting cues, editing videos, setting up sound scenes, etc. But God had other plans. The power went off in our second song and took all of our systems online. What happened next was the highlight of the night. Sometimes God shines brightest in our darkness. Truly, in our weakness, He is strong!
(Fast forward to 8:20 to see the power outage.)