Have you ever played a role that really wasn't you?

Reingard and her pastor/husband have two boys. She enjoys sports (jogging and swimming) and reading. She lives in the Black Forest in Germany.

As a child I was very shy. Most of the time, I was very quiet and did not dare open up. I behaved in a way that would not be noticed. However, at one point in my life, I had a very interesting experience. The children of our church were asked to perform a drama. I had the role of an old lady. I had few lines, but I had to dress in a long, washed-out pullover, long skirt, and old worn-out shoes. I carried a handkerchief and a cane. As a matter of fact, I looked so much like an old lady, many people did not recognize me! When it came time for the play, I was not very nervous because I thought no one would recognize me. I learned that I enjoyed performing. I also realized that I became less introverted when I became someone else. I was able to hide behind a mask.

This childhood experience was a revelation. I could hide behind a mask and no one would see the real me! Since I've reached adulthood, I still find myself hiding behind a mask. Do you sometimes feel that way? Have you ever played a role that really wasn't you? Why do we feel we need to be something we are not? Perhaps we are afraid. I fear that fellow humans may detect something in me which they do not like. I fear that people will despise me, gossip about me, laugh at or reject me because I am different from them. I wonder if I will be accepted if people know the real me.

Why do people compare one another? Is it important to fit into a certain mold? Do we all have to look a certain way, be a certain size, and be as successful as our friends? Do we need to own homes like our friends or wear clothes like models? Should we have the same gifts as our friends?

Who created these expectations? With whom do we compare ourselves and why do we compare at all? When we try to answer these questions, we notice that as soon as it comes to our exteriors, we fail. Even if I let my hair grow, color it blonde, and try to become thinner, I will never look like Claudia Schiffer. With a fast car I can speed on Germany's highways, but I will never be as fast as Michael Schumaker. I can work until I almost suffer a heart attack, but I will not become as rich as Bill Gates.

Do we encounter the same problems with our inner beings? We compare our external selves with others, but do we compare our internal selves as well? So often we are afraid to voice our opinions and thoughts because we are afraid of others' reactions. Like the little girl I once was, I have found myself afraid to speak because I was worried about what oth­ers would think of me. Too often, we try and hide our real selves.

God intended us to be different from one another. He wants us to be happy with ourselves, both externally and internally. God made each human being. I imagine He deliber­ated about our appearance, character, temperament, and gifts even before we were born. God desires for us to be the way He created us. After creation, God said everything was good. That included Adam and Eve, even though they were different. In Isaiah 42:2, God says each individual is so important that He knows him or her by name. God knows our feelings and thoughts. In His eyes, we are "very good." We should not be guided by human opinions, but rather by the fact that God's opinion is the only one that counts.

The fact that we are all God's creation influences the way I think of others. I am filled with reverence. God created and loves every individual, even those who do not appeal to me, those who get on my nerves, those who do not agree with my ideas, and those who are not on my wavelength.

It is my wish that we learn to accept others in their total­ity, for if we do not accept others, we criticize God's creation. However, we can rejoice that others are different from us, and we can admire their abilities without being envious. The different gifts can be complimentary, and we can support one another. Let us encourage others to be what they are by showing them that we love them. Let us make them aware of the fact that it is not necessary to hide themselves or pretend to be something they are not. By accepting others, we can help free our friends and ourselves from pressures and fear. We can make room to develop our gifts. We can let our unique personalities shine as God intended and forever shed our masks.

Reingard and her pastor/husband have two boys. She enjoys sports (jogging and swimming) and reading. She lives in the Black Forest in Germany.