My kids love to dress up. Every day they embark upon a new adventure: pretending to fly, fight crime or a number of other superhero fantasies. But over the past few years I’ve come to a difficult truth. My kids dress up like superheroes for fun. I do it because I think I have to.
Let me explain.
In an exhaustive attempt to understand who I truly am, I have various capes that I wear. These “capes” are different for all of us—the faux identities we so desperately try to maintain. Our cape is the facade that we so often hide behind, the false self we portray to the world. And if you’re still unsure of you own capes, think about how you define yourself at parties or on social media. Then, look where you spend the majority of your time and energy throughout the day.
We all have capes we hide behind.
So what’s the big deal? Why should be be concerned about these capes?
The problem is this: capes hide your true identity. In the movies, superheroes conceal their true identity underneath average, everyday attire. And they do this because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of being found out and afraid of being outcast for their supernatural gifts. The same is true of us, just in reverse. In most cases, we pretend to be superheroes because we’re scared of being average, everyday individuals. We’re afraid that we’re not enough, afraid that we don’t have what it takes, afraid that the world won’t appreciate us for who we really are. So, we hide.
If I take off the cape, will they like what they see?
When I first began following my heart to be an encourager, I reached out to folks who were years ahead of me. These were the “experts” who had experience. Surely they would know the best course of action. One in particular said something that stuck.
“Tuck in your cape, superman.”
He was direct and sincere. It reminded me to be humble and serve others instead of putting so much focus on myself. This was the first time I ever realized that I wore a cape. And his point was that the cape was getting in the way.
Since then, I’ve realized I don’t just have one cape, I have many.
The Fatherhood Cape
I put on a grin, grab my BEST DAD coffee mug and play the part well. I smile at birthday parties, sing silly songs and we hold hands walking into church. But beneath the facade, am I more concerned with being their dad or looking like a good dad?
Under the cape the responsibilities of fatherhood are overwhelming. Most days feel more like survival. And when I reach a breaking point, my selfishness and desire for control are revealed.
The Businessman Cape
I pretend to be bulletproof in my business suit and I fight proverbial crime in my office. Day and night, I work to reinforce my belief that I’m the provider. When my cell phone rings, I answer it because my service is impeccable—even when I’m at home.
But my family often wonders if they’re more important than my clients. Even more serious is the fact that my efforts inadvertently supplant the God who promises to be the provider.
In the end, will my hard work unravel the very family I’m so determined to provide for?
The Religious Cape
I wear the t-shirt of my local church as if it were my favorite sports team, I quote Bible verses as a way to justify my agenda and I check spiritual boxes of obedience to prove my reverence. I am Super Christian.
But unknowingly I snub my nose at those who don’t hold my ideals and truthfully I’m just trying to earn the approval of a God who gives it freely.
Will God help those who help themselves? Or simply let them drown in their own ambition and striving?
Our True Selves
The guy was right about capes. We all have them. But tucking them in doesn’t work. We need to take them off.
Personally, I’m tired of pretending. Capes are exhausting.
We live in a messy, broken world. And the only way to combat that is to reveal the messy and broken parts underneath. Not as a way to say, “Hey, look at me,” but as a way to stop the act.
Somewhere along the way, we became convinced that messy and broken isn’t beautiful—that strength is found in the absence of struggle. But that’s dangerous garbage to believe. Strength is found when we take off our capes and reveal what’s hidden underneath.
It’s time for the truth. The world needs more authenticity.
Like our superhero counterparts, when we are our true selves, it helps people. Point blank, the real YOU is the greatest gift you could give to the world. When people are able to see your realness, it empowers them to take off their own cape.
The bottom line is, dressing up is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be a lifestyle. We’re supposed to grow through adversity, not cover it up. And for a guy who’s played dress up for many years, taking off the cape is scary. But it’s liberating.
You should give it a try.
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