Ash Wednesday

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do… But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Jesus in Matthew 6:1-4).”

“Impression management” is a phrase that is used to describe the ways we continually try to control what others think of us. We all want to be thought well of, to be liked, to be approved and to be accepted. Impression management takes these natural desires and twists them in unnatural ways. We work extraordinarily hard to control the impressions other may have of us, we exert tremendous energy to guard our reputations or to present a ‘public face.’ We may even use our religion as a means of trying to impress. “My, look at the way he prays… What a holy man…” or “look at how much she serves or how generous she is…. What a godly lady…” The problem with impression management is that it is all a pretense. When working to manage the opinions others may have of us, it is not us that they may be impressed with, but the person we are pretending to be.

As the season of Lent begins today, this journey toward the cross, we endeavor to set aside impression management for a far greater goal: becoming real. Lent is a journey of love, a journey to the heart of God. When we know the unconditional love of God, the impressions others may have of us are less important. There is a great irony here, as well. As we become more real, more genuine, we tend to be far more interesting as well! Let go of your anxieties about what others think of you today and be yourself.

Prayer: Help me to let go of my worries and concerns about what others may think of me today, O Lord, so that, rooted and grounded in your love, I may simply be the person you created me to be.