Schizophrenic living

Faith & Inspiration

I was driving someone to a rendezvous and the air inside the car was toxic. My passenger was in a foul mood, and all attempts to sweeten it were rebuffed because: (1) She definitely could not help the way she felt, (2) her behavior was the direct result of my sins against her, and (3) to act otherwise would be to be inauthentic.

The only problem for my passenger-a problem that doubtless dawned on her as we approached our destination-is that we were headed to her quilting teacher's house. And, you see, the quilting teacher is a warm, gracious, and courteous person, and my passenger is always sweetness and light toward her.

As you will quickly discern, the situation presents a dilemma for my passenger: How is she going to pull this off? How is she going to sustain her miserable demeanor toward me while presenting a cheerful demeanor toward the teacher? The answer, of course, is that it is an impossible feat. She was stuck.

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As we made the turn onto the last street, I was curious as to how this would play out. I was thinking about all the times I had been trapped in a similar snare. This is a universal experience, of course, one that is common to man: not speaking to the husband but smiling at the customers at the diner where she waits on tables, or screaming at her kids but becoming Martha Stewart when the plumber shows up. (Even Martha Stewart has to become Martha Stewart.)

You want to talk about a feeling of inauthenticity? Nothing divides the self like wearing different personae throughout the day. Moreover, the fact that we are even able to turn off a foul mood instantaneously in front of certain people is an embarrassing admission: It proves that we are not helpless victims of deterministic causes after all, but are able to be kind any time we want to when the circumstances are what we deem to be to our advantage.

God says, "… Put on the new self … be kind …" (Ephesians 4:24, 32). If God says it, it is not hypocritical to do it. It is obedience. He commands it because there is already grace for it. The only inauthenticity is a fractured life of many faces, and disobedience to the plain commands when we suppose ourselves disciples of Christ. That's schizophrenic living.

So I watched my passenger get out of the car and walk down the driveway with her sewing machine to the quilting teacher's house. And even though her back was to me, I could detect by something in her body language that she was in the midst of the Houdini act of changing from her mad face to her kindly one.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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