I want to cover a topic that my pastor preached on this last Sunday. He was obviously talking to the church, but his point applies to anyone that is trying to build a community of people. His sermon was entitled “The Great Cover-Up” in reference to how we handle things when we do something wrong, make a mistake, or commit a sin. Do we run and hide, or do we stand up and face the situation with courage? Unfortunately, almost everyone in our society has taken the lesser road. So what we need to do is understand how this trend got started, why we haven’t fixed it, and how we can fix it. If we could get this right, we could massively change our entire culture.
First we need to understand why this is such a powerful force in our lives. It all started in the Garden of Eden. After God made man and woman, He gave them a perfect sanctuary in which to live. The only rule was that they couldn’t eat from the tree of knowledge. As you know, Eve cracked under the pressure. And of course, Adam followed instead of leading. (My wife and I always joke about who was really at fault.) But after they ate the forbidden fruit, what happened?
Genesis 3: 7-8 “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Now think for a minute how silly it is for them to be hiding from God. They knew Him on an intimate level that we can’t possibly understand, so I would assume that they knew He is omniscient and omnipresent. Yet even with that knowledge, their instinct was to hide like a five-year-old only child who just wrote on the wall (not that that ever happens). So if Adam would hide from God, for sure, mankind is going to hide from other humans! It is in our makeup, our DNA. That doesn’t make it right or an acceptable strategy, but we need to know that it will be our first inclination.
Now that we know where those original feelings come from, we need to understand why our culture has made uncovering mistakes such a negative proposition. This one is easy, and most of you already know the answer. We have been raised in a society where being wrong is viewed negatively. We get marked down—not marked up; we get told what we did wrong—not what we did right; we hear news about people that are doing wrong—not about the people who are doing right. Humans are naturally drawn toward the negative. You are looked at as being weak if you admit you have issues instead of being seen as courageous for facing them. All of this has produced a culture of fear—fear of facing the issues that every one of us has.
Another factor that has affected our ability to fix issues is trust. We don’t trust the person we are talking to because he hasn’t gone through the same process, so we are not sure if our conversations are going to be private or if he may tell someone else. We may not be sure if others have the aptitude to help us. And sometimes we just feel like others will judge us. This last one is interesting. We all know someone like this: the holier-than-thou person. This person comes across like he just has it all together and never sins, and if he ever does, it is certainly not as big as your sins. It is very hard to help people if you give off that perception. If God is the standard, then all of us are filthy compared to His holiness.
Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.
So what do we do to start repairing this cover-up mentality? First, we need to follow what Scripture tells us to do.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed.
This would imply that we are supposed to be part of the process. If we are part of the process, then we need to create a culture of facing sin—not covering it up. Following are some actions we can take:
- Let people know that all of us are sinners saved by grace
- Let others know some of the areas in which we have struggled
- Edify the people who are willing to face sin instead of running from it
- Keep all conversations private
- Be trustworthy with minor issues, so others know they can trust us with the big ones
- Attack the thought process—not the person
- Let people know that nothing they say will affect your opinion of them
This list is easy for me to write up because my mentors have done all of these things for me. Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward have modeled these behaviors for me. We must first go through this process if we are going to become really effective in helping our fellow man. We must understand what it is like to reveal our sins to someone else before we can help others to admit their sins to us. It is vitally important as a community that we stop hiding behind the bushes acting like we don’t have any problems. We all have them, and none of them are worse than others because anything we do right is still like a filthy rag. Let’s become a group in which resolving issues is more courageous than covering up issues.