Layers of Man- Summary

For the last week we have been exploring the different layers that make a person up, which ones we mistakenly identify with, and the one true identity that we should define ourselves by. We made this journey by moving from the outside in, first examining the external falsehoods, moving to the interior ones, and finally settling on the truth. This inward journey tends to be the pattern that the reawakened soul follows, digging through the layers to get back to who they once were. But, of course, all of these layers come upon the soul in reverse order. So, let’s take a minute to start at the core and work our way back out, just to make sure the picture is complete.

The Divine)

First and foremost, we have the divine. Our true identity, present in us from before our birth. We do not have to work for it, we do not have to earn it, it is just inherent in our innocent, infant state. Artists have long recognized the natural divinity of children, rendering them as angels and cherubs, holy souls under the direct purview of God, Himself.

The divine core is present in us from the beginning, though it should be noted that it can grow and expand throughout our lives. When we are living from this authentic core, we are able to develop and attach other virtues to our character. If we attempt to attach these virtues at any other level of being, they will never stick. Thus, the great prerequisite to real change in our lives is for that change to be able to communicate with this most intimate layer. If you really want to make lasting changes in your life, then you need to stay in this place.

The Wound)

Tragically, though, at some point the divine self is assaulted and taken from us. Though we are naturally bright, someone tells us that we are stupid. Though we are effortlessly kind, someone tells us that we are hurtful. Though we are inherently innocent, someone tells us that we are guilty. We accept these messages as true, because we are young and vulnerable, and they come from someone that we love and trust.

Part of the reason why childhood wounds hurt us the most is because they cut at the truest part of us. If we accept that at our core we are foolish and selfish and worthless, then there is nowhere else to go for reassurance. We see ourselves as fundamentally broken, and by definition, fundamentally broken means unfixable.

The Shame)

The pain brought on by this wounding cannot be overstated. It is entirely appropriate to say that these are the greatest assaults our souls will ever face in life. Being struck to our core, our survival instincts will almost certainly kick in. These instincts are simple and powerful, designed to find the quickest, most efficient way to remove oneself from the pain.

And all too often, the quickest, most efficient anesthesia is some sort of carnal pleasure. Whether the pleasure of sexual gratification, or of consumption, or of entertainment, or of mind-altering chemicals, or of getting new things, or of establishing control over another. All of these alleviate pain in the moment, but they do so at the terrible cost of tearing our conscience and hurting the hearts of others. We will hate ourselves for doing these things, but that hatred will only inspire the survival instincts to do them yet again to numb that pain also! A vicious cycle of self-hurt and hurt to others thus begins.

The Façade)

The pain of a broken heart and of a guilty conscience, the two most terrible burdens to live with. The instinct-based survival mechanism has tried to save us in its own way and utterly failed, so now our higher reasoning takes a crack at it, but its attempt is hardly any better.

We mistakenly conclude that we must create a new layer outside of the others, one that covers the shame so that no one else can see it and one that overcompensates for the part of our divine soul that was assaulted by the wound. So, if we were told that we were selfish, and if our shameful addictions have reinforced that belief, then we will likely create a façade of exaggerated niceness, straining to put on a show of compassion and consideration, not motivated by genuine love for other people, but by fear of having our ugly side seen.

Because the façade totally ignores the underlying issue, it is trying to erect a beautiful building on top of a fractured foundation, and it is doomed to fail miserably. Sometimes this failure is a sudden and public collapse, sometimes it is hidden from the world as we slowly erode from the inside out. In either case, its scope is all-reaching, shattering every branch and relationship in our lives.


And thank God that it does. Thank God that our efforts to put a band-aid over a gaping laceration don’t work. Thank God that we will never find a workable solution without Him. And I literally mean “thank God,” because He is often the one who topples our house of cards to the floor.

Sometimes, when we are in the midst of trying so hard to cover our mistakes and wounds, we feel like divine intervention is tripping us up. Often that makes us incredibly mad! “God, I’m trying to make myself good enough, I’m trying to make this house beautiful enough, so why do you keep sending earthquakes to knock it down?!”

God breaks apart everything that we build so that we can finally give up. Routed and cut off from support, our marshalling ruined and our hopes in retreat, finally we throw our hands up and say “I surrender! Go ahead. Punish me! Break me! I deserve it!”

And then we see what a liberating captor God is.

One layer after another, God then breaks through the façade, the shame, and the wound. He blasts all of it away and reveals to us our shining, divine spark, long forgotten but never faded.

“I don’t care about the wrongs,” He tells us. “I don’t care about the lies. I don’t care about the shame. And I’m not here to condemn you, break you, or punish you. I’m only here for this!”

He takes that divine spark and puts it back into our hands. He gives ourselves back to ourselves.

“Now let’s try this again,” He says.

And now, with our true self restored back to us, we miraculously find ourselves effortlessly able to be the person that we could never make ourselves be by force. Where once we felt cursed in all that we did, now we are blessed. Certain defeat is replaced with already-won victory. Real change and real happiness come over us, and we are amazed to find that all this was ready and waiting for us at any moment.

Unveiling our shame and our wounds may seem a terrible ordeal. Our anxiety might seem sure that to do so will kill us! But this is the only way to get them out of the way and then unveil the divine, and once we have done this, then all the hard journey will have been worth it. At last, we are our ourself again, and we need never go back to playing pretend.

Layers of Man- The Divine

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. - 1 Corinthians 13:12

This above all: to thine own self be true - Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

It might seem impossible that a person could not know their own self, one would think that knowledge would be self-evident to them, but nothing could be further from the truth. I do not know a single person who has not totally lost their genuine self at some point or another. We all stray from our authentic core, and finding our way back isn’t as simple as we might think. Indeed, there are many who never find their way back at all! This a tragedy, because we will never grow into our full potential until we are living from that genuinely authentic place.

Over the past several posts we’ve highlighted the common false identities we find ourselves in: the wounded victim, the shameful addict, and the phony pretender. At different times we might consider any of these roles to be our real self, but none of them can be. Each of these layers only came into existence partway through our lives. They are therefore artificial and external, addendums on top of something else.

And what is that something else? What was the true self that everything else was layered on top of us? What identity we have always had inside of ourselves, right from the beginning of life?

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? - John 10:34

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee - Jeremiah 1:5

The words of scripture provide bold declarations that each and every one of us is a special creation of God, a divine child of the most powerful being in the universe, and an heir to heaven through Christ. The words of scripture tell us that none of us are a bit player or window dressing in the story of the world, but a central character unlike any other. Each of us comes with unique talents and callings, meaning we have both a God-given ability and a God-given purpose.

In short, each one of us is sacred, each one of us is divine, and each one of us is an imprint of God. Many of us have been told this at one point or another, but relatively few of us have been able to actually believe it. Or we might say that we believe it, but when asked to describe who our divine self is we are unable to provide any specific or unique details.

Forgetting who the divine self is the first step to all the trouble that we experience in life. Coming to remember who we are is the first step to restoring all that was lost.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For the body is not one member, but many. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. - 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, 17, 18

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 18:3

I can tell you that your true identity is defined by wonderful and divine traits…but I cannot tell you exactly what those traits are. We are not all the same image of divinity, but each a part of the whole. It is not for another mortal to define what your identity is. It is a personal and individual pilgrimage that all of us must take for ourselves, to know who we truly are.

I can, at least, give you a starting point to begin your journey from. Remember that all of our false identities were layers heaped upon our original state. Remember that our divine self is not one that we had to earn or fashion, it was present in us from the very beginning. And so, the best place to start looking for the divine self is in our young childhood. What were you like before your innocence had been broken, when happiness came so naturally, and you didn’t ever wonder if you were enough? How did you play and perform before you cared who was watching you? What were the things you could do that brought you joy effortlessly, that made you feel strong and adept? Some may be able to recall these years better than others. Some may need to enlist the help of parents and loved ones who might remember more clearly.

Of course, remembering these things is one thing, but then there is the matter of actually going back to that place. Some may feel that their childlike self has been irreversibly broken, that the path back home is blocked by an impassable chasm.

Whether you have forgotten your child self, or do not know how to find your back to it, do not worry. It can all be brought back to you right where you are at this moment. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As you cultivate your relationship with Christ and search with earnest, old things will be made new. The self that was forgotten or lost will be brought back effortlessly; a gift restored.


I’ve shared my façade, my shame, and my wounds, it only seems fair that now I get to share the most divine parts of my soul as well. This isn’t boasting, either, because these are the qualities I did absolutely nothing to obtain. They were given to me as a gift from God. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

From my youngest years I have been naturally cheerful and gregarious. I am most typically happy, and I want to see everyone around me be happy as well. I tend to sense how engaged everyone is with an activity, and when someone is frustrated or losing interest, I know what to change to include them.

I am curious and creative, endlessly fascinated by this world and stimulated by it into imagining new things. I love to write and create stories, to convert life lessons into parables and allegories. And even when it does not lead to creativity, I still find great pleasure just in learning and understanding new things.

Finally, I am also conscientious, having an unbreakable sense of what is right. When it comes to deciding what I should do, I need no more justification or rationalization than simply to feel what is right in my heart and obey it. Along with this, I have recently discovered that I always comes back to my conscience. Sometimes, admittedly, I do become complacent and aloof, trying to glide through life without holding myself to a greater purpose. But these spells are always short-lived. I am constantly pulled back towards conscience, even without any external pressure to do so.

And now, at long last, we have reached the true core of who we are. The part of us that has always been ingrained in us since before our birth. The part that is inseparable from who we are, even when it is temporarily forgotten. The part that it is actually correct for us to identify ourselves by.

We are so often taught that we have to make ourselves be enough, that we have to spend our whole lives striving to becoming who we are supposed to be. What a welcome shock to realize that in reality we don’t need to strive at all. The divine was in us all along, before we had done a single thing to build or earn it. So now, instead of grasping at convoluted philosophies, we can let go of everything but the truth. Instead of looking high and low for God, we can discover Him within us. Instead of working so hard to become His we can realize that we always were.

Now, at last, we are home.

Layers of Man- The Wound

One would hope that a man and woman wouldn’t have any secrets from one another by the time they decide to get married, but this is far from guaranteed. Certainly I was guilty of keeping my wife in the dark from all the deepest parts of me. Previously I mentioned that I kept my addiction to lust concealed from her, but that wasn’t all, I was also hiding my wounds.

It may seem a strange thing, but I was able to tell my wife about my problems with pornography before I could tell her how I got hit as a child, and how I felt ashamed for wincing before each blow. Obviously the addiction was the part of my life that made her more upset, the one that directly hurt her, but it still was the easier thing for me to confess to. I never thought that she would despise me for having suffered abuse, but talking about it brought up areas that were still raw and tender. I couldn’t go there without bringing up all of the attached horrible feelings, so I had always stayed away.

My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake - Jeremiah 23:9

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;
And unto Adam he said, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; - Genesis 3:16-17

All of us have these deep, soul-shaking wounds. As Brené Brown has said, “Every single person has a story that will break your heart. Nobody rides for free.”

If you listen to the stories of two different people, one might have endured a more horrifying pain for a more extended period of time, but both lives will still hold significant trauma. The hardest thing you have ever had to go through, no matter how small it might seem compared to others, is still the hardest thing you have ever had to go through. Simply by virtue of being your greatest pain, it will warp your psyche and become your personal definition of suffering.

Coming to terms with that pain, and developing our relationship with it, is one of the most difficult things we will ever do in life. Virtually all of us will make mistakes in this arena, and we will come up with flawed reactions that end up causing even more pain further down the road.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives - Luke 4:18

And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. - Numbers 21:8

Jesus teaches us that it is good for us to mourn our sorrows, and reassures us with the knowledge that we can be comforted (Matthew 5:4). But there is a clear line between mourning our sorrows and wallowing in them. It is one thing to recognize that you have been a victim, and another to make victimhood your key defining feature.

Over-identifying with our pains and obsessing on what happened to us can lead us to reject the deliverance that is offered, because we start thinking that healing means saying our wounds didn’t matter. Even more perversely, holding on to our damage can be used as a way to justify our own misbehavior afterward. Thus, God is offering us to look to him and live, but we first have to choose to stop remaining a prisoner.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. - Ether 12:27

Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength" - Jeremiah 17:5

The intended effect of our wounds is that in our weakness we might turn to God, who will heal and make us strong. But that requires stepping fully into our hurt, letting it wash over us, and asking for God to meet us in the middle of all that pain. But what if He doesn’t show up? What if we are consumed?

It is natural to have a fear of facing the pain, and thus many of us will never even try to take that step. We instead try to bury our wound. We act tough, we say “yeah, it happened, but so what?” We claim that our wounds made us stronger, that they made us grow a thicker skin. Or maybe we try to deny that they ever happened, changing the subject anytime someone brings the matter up. In either case, we put on a show that the wounds are unimportant and don’t need to be examined, and that we are well and past them, but nothing could be further from the truth. If we really were past them, there would be no fear of bringing them into the light. A tough wall around the wound only reveals how upset we still are about it.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows - Isaiah 53:4

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. - Revelations 3:20

One way or another, wound tends to lead to building up walls. Sometimes walls are a good thing, a necessary survival mechanism for keeping our oppressor out. Our natural instinct with physical wounds is also to cover them up, to shield them from any outside aggravation. But walls tend not to discriminate. Often they keep everything out, not only the source of the pain. Obviously this becomes a problem if we now stand before the physician and we still can’t expose our wound for healing. We need to let the physician in, even if it will initially cause even more pain, so that we can start becoming better.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He is reverential and respectful of our pain, so he does not force his way into our wounds. If we absolutely refuse his healing he will wait. If we never accept his help he will never force it upon us. But he really can help us if we will let him. He has felt it, he has borne it, he has descended into it and risen above it.

If we will not let Christ in, then the wound will fester. It will grow and it will infect. Most addicts don’t initially recognize the connection between their shameful behavior and the unhealed pains for their youth, but through time and exploration the links become clear. One of the greatest sources of trouble in our lives is things that we should have cried about but never did.


At the start of this post I mentioned being struck as a child. This pain was most typically the result of not being able to play quietly enough. I was expected to keep entertained by myself, in a way that was contained and non-intrusive. I would try to do that, really I would, but I was a boisterous boy, and I would raise my volume without realizing it, and then I would be hit. A few days ago I mentioned that a key part of my façade is that I try to be a people pleaser, never a bother to anyone. Can you see the connection to that from this wound?

There was also a wound of isolation. I was homeschooled, and any would-be friends were told over-and-over that I wasn’t able to play with them until they stopped asking altogether. As I came into my adolescence I wanted to have meaningful relationships with girls, but I was such an outsider to every social norm that I could never relate to them. Can you see how this wound connects to my addiction for pretend-love-on-demand?

And there were also wounds for being unintelligent. I was pushed to get into college as early as possible, being punished when I did poorly on the admission tests, and being treated as the stupid child for not making it in until I was sixteen. Can you see why I cheated for better grades and made up a façade of being ultra-intelligent?

Our shame is nothing more than a misguided way to cope with our wounds. It tries to alleviate painful shortcomings, but tragically it often does so in a way that only reinforces them. Relying on cheating and lust gave me artificial grades and relationships in the short term, but they further confirmed to me that I wasn’t intelligent or social enough for the real thing.

Our façade is nothing more than an over-compensation for the wound, where we pretend to be all the things that our wounds have told us we are not. In our childhood mind it seemed that we were denied connection and love because of these shortcomings, and so we end up with the false belief that we must project strengths in these areas to be worthy of that connection love.

And so, the wound is a layer deeper than either the shame or the façade, but it is not the true core of who we are either. Defining ourselves based on our wound prevents us from living with truth and joy, same as identifying at the other two levels. There still remains a deeper layer to uncover.

In fact, the reason the wound hurts us so much, is because it is a direct assault at that deeper core. Our wounds put us on such a long and misguided path because they make us forget who we really are. They make us forget our own divine self.

Layers of Man- Shame

And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. - Genesis 3:10

The story of Adam and Eve is strange and fantastic, and at first glance it may seem difficult to relate to. Or at least, it seems difficult until Adam and Eve discover shame. When we hear of them scrambling to hide from God the story suddenly becomes all too familiar. Each of us knows that moment of uncomfortable exposure when we wish we could sink into the floor and disappear from the disapproving glare of another.

Like Adam and Eve, shame is a developed emotion within us. Infants and babies do not exhibit it to any degree but starting around the age of two or three they start to recognize when they have been caught in bad situation and will cry because of it. Though shame is not present at the beginning it is inevitable. Like sexual feelings, the fact that it isn’t present from birth does not mean that it is any less real or certain.

Shame is an essential, if unpleasant, part of learning how to conduct oneself within a society. Every child develops it alongside of their need for friends and social identity. When properly handled, it will guide is into becoming a healthy, well-adjusted individual. But that requires us to embrace its pain, and too often try to find ways to short-circuit it instead. This, of course, means hiding our shame and crafting the façade to cover it, and this means splitting ourselves into two realities.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. - Romans 7:19

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. - Matthew 26:41

Literature and theater have long been fascinated with the dual nature of man. The Phantom of the Opera shows us a man both hideous and beautiful. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde features a man who is one part kind and one part violent. The Brothers Karamazov is full of characters who believe they are one way but then discover another side to themselves.

Yesterday we discussed the part of our personality that we wear like a mask, a façade that we use to cover the shameful way we feel inside. Many the addict has confessed to a dual life, trying to sustain two completely opposite existences. If the façade is intended to attract the people that we want to like us, then the inner shame tends to be all the qualities that we think would repulse those same people. Addicts express sentiments such as “people think I’m so great, but if they knew who I really was, they’d run for the hills.” Thus, shame represents all the qualities that we think make us unlovable.

And this makes our shame very difficult to expose. It is literally the things that we feel will make people abhor us and reject us, so how are we to willingly unveil those very parts to other people? It feels like an act of suicide!

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! - Isaiah 5:20

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; - 2 Timothy 4:3

Of course, there is not only shame, but shamelessness. There are those whose answer to unpleasant feelings of embarrassment and exposure is to reject those feelings and put gross excess and inappropriate behavior on a pedestal.

Perhaps some feelings of shame are nurtured in us by society, and perhaps some of those things we ought not to feel ashamed about, but just as excessive heat and sharpness should cause pain, excessive indulgence and immorality should cause shame. Those that live shamelessly may think they are living a truer existence because they have thrown away the phony outer layer of the façade, but in reality they have made their shame into their façade. Being accepting of the unacceptable is not authentic, it is just as much a fraud as the person trying to live a dual life.

There are also those who admit to their shameful deeds, and admit that they are shameful, but pitifully conclude that there is nothing they can do about it. They are just no good, and that’s how it is.

Thus, just as how those who self-identify with their façade stunt themselves by living a lie, so too do those who self-identify with their shame. Because while shame is a deeper layer of our psyche, it is still not the true us. Stopping our progression at this level will still prevent us from living with fulness and joy.


Yesterday I explained my own façade, the way I try to put on an intelligent and kind face to everyone I meet. But what is beneath that layer? What is my shame? What are the secret behaviors I have always felt rendered me completely unlovable?

Well, as one might expect, they tend to be the opposite of the façade that I try project. They are my lack of intelligence and my selfishness.

For lack of intelligence, I have always felt that I am lagging behind the curve. I have always been terrified to have my knowledge tested, and for the first several years of college I cheated in every test that I could. Eventually I was caught and brought before a school counselor. I thought I was going to try to lie my way out of it right up until the moment I opened my mouth. Admitting to my stupidity and immoral behavior would be social suicide after all. But something came over me in that moment, and I peeled back the façade and showed my shame instead. I admitted that the accusation was completely true, that I had cheated, and that I had been doing so for quite some while. And, most unexpectedly, I actually felt relieved to have finally been discovered.

Fortunately for me, the school showed mercy. I did not die socially, I was not expelled, and from that moment on I never cheated on a test again. But the temptation to do so was always there. I still dreaded having my knowledge measured, because I was never able to shake the feeling that my intelligence on its own would never be enough. But a change had finally occurred, where I was willing to accept failure and embarrassment rather than pretend to something false.

For selfishness, I have my addictions. Compulsive behaviors that are based around getting what instantaneous pleasure I want, with no regard for whoever is harmed as a result. My addictions are primarily in the form of lust, overeating, and excessive media use.

Of these three, lust is certainly the one that has brought me the most shame. I have felt absolutely disgusted with myself for how I would use women for my own gratification, viewing pornography and typing away in chat rooms, all the while pretending to be a loving husband and an attentive father. I told myself for years that I could not break the façade, that I could not ruin the image of a shining knight that my wife and son had for me. As with the cheating in school, I really believed that I could never tell the truth, and unlike with school, I knew how to cover my tracks well enough that I would likely never be caught. I lived the lie and I never let the mask slip.

Until, one day, I did. One day I had had enough, and I wrote my wife a letter and left it on our doorstep. In the next two days I met with my ecclesiastical leader and scheduled an appointment with an addiction recovery program. Since that moment, my secret shame has been out in the open, as I have shared all my worst moments with therapy and twelve step groups. Much to my surprise, revealing my shame has not made me fundamentally unlovable. In fact, it has drawn people closer.

However, accepting that we have this layer of shame and bringing it to the light is still not the end of the road. There is a reason why we do the things that we are ashamed of, and that reason emanates from another layer further down. Tomorrow we will approach the layer of our wounds, and we will do so gingerly and carefully. We will come to understand their pain and how we mishandle them with shame and façade.

Layers of Man- The Façade

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. - Genesis 3:7

You will never know most of the people you meet.

A strange sentiment perhaps, seemingly paradoxical, but it is completely true. Put another way, for most of the people in your life, you will never interact with the actual them, only with their mask. You will only ever know the surface-level, carefully-doctored, phony personality that they are making a conscious effort to project.

Like Adam and Eve, we make aprons. We hide who we really are behind a layer of fashion. A fashion that we hope will make us attractive to the people that we want to like us.

And this phenomenon hasn’t gone unnoticed. We so often complain about how fake everybody seems and how we crave relationships that are more real. But at the same time, we tend to downplay how much we’re playing the exact same game ourselves. Even criticizing the phoniness in others can itself be a social fashion.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes - Proverbs 21:2

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? - Matthew 7:4

The reason why so many of us don’t realize how much we are projecting our own façade is because we are the ones being fooled the most by it! We pretend to be a particular way for so long that we actually start to believe that is who we really are!

And then we must defend whatever principles and ideologies our delusion is based upon, as any challenge to them might tumble down our entire house of cards. This is what divides our culture into isolated echo chambers, where we surround ourselves with people that show the same façade we are trying to project, we become saturated with their dogma, and then we attack anyone whose façade is at odds with our own. We’ll pick apart all their flaws while ignoring our own, and the whole time we’ll believe that we are standing for what is right and virtuous. In reality, it is only self-preservation.

This cycle, unfortunately, can continue forever. All of our façades are fundamentally flawed in one way or another, and thus each is deserving of criticism, and thus there will always be an easy avenue to tear one another down. The only way to break out of this cycle is to finally admit that our façade is a façade and that it is beneath us.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. - 1 Corinthians 1:25

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. - Luke 21:1-2

One of the greatest curses that could ever be wished upon someone is that their façade would be good enough and consistent enough for them to never have to challenge it. Continuing to identify with this superficial layer, believing that this who they really and truly are, will stunt any person’s growth. Most of us will never call it quits on our game of pretend until it completely and utterly fails us, so as long as we’re able to be somewhat happy, somewhat secure, and somewhat wealthy we will never have a reason to disrupt the status quo.

And what a terrible fate that would be, for it would forever keep us living in the lower echelons of existence. The wisest and strongest we could ever make ourselves is still superseded by the most simple and weak of God. The uneducated and frail woman who gave her two mites was living a more complete and joyful life than the learned and powerful rulers who made a great show of giving their riches. Authentic living, even of the humblest variety, trumps inauthentic living, even at its most extravagant.

Many the addict has learned to be grateful for their life-destroying vice, because hitting rock bottom was what finally brought them to drop their façade and start living with actual authenticity. To have not been destroyed might have meant to never truly live.


But what about for me personally? What has been my go-to façade, what are its strengths and weaknesses, and why wasn’t it enough to keep me content in life? The way I try to come across is extremely intelligent and incredibly nice. Let’s look at each of these qualities one at a time.


I want people to know that I know things, and I will absolutely pretend to know more than I really do. I will also carefully avoid conversations that might reveal my ignorance in a particular area.

I work in a highly technical field, and when other people start throwing out jargon that I don’t know, I feel very uncomfortable about my ignorance. I try to glean enough context to give an intelligible response, all the while terrified of being found out as a fraud. My great hope is that I will be able to continue the illusion of knowing everything that I need to know and having many wise insights to offer.


But I don’t want to be seen as too full of myself. I want to be recognized as smart, but not conceited. So, I also make myself into quite the people-pleaser. I defer on my own preferences and opinions, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and never say a bad word about anyone.

I’m also very careful to do all of the things I’m supposed to be doing as a good person. I go to church, I pay my taxes, and I am never to be seen in a disreputable establishment! I want people to know that they can depend on me to be just the sort of guy that they think I am. The sort who quietly handles all his own struggles without being a bother to anyone.

Now obviously, not all of these qualities are bad things, and not all of them are totally fake. In some areas of life, I really am intelligent, and I really can be very kind. But I’ve taken these natural qualities and I’ve overinflated them. At some points I’ve embellished them with outright lies.

Some of these behaviors are outright unhealthy, such as always deferring my own preferences. Some of them are unhealthy simply because they are coming from an inauthentic place, such as when I listen closely to what someone else is saying and give a meaningful response, but only so they will know what a great guy I really am.

But if I genuinely do have some good qualities, why do I feel the need to exaggerate and pretend? We’ll get more into that as we continue this study, but the short answer is because my basic goodness was wounded at some point, and I concluded that it wasn’t good enough. I was smart, but not smart enough. I was thoughtful, but I wasn’t thoughtful enough. Someone told me I had failed to measure up and I had to do better.

Not only that, but hidden away, beneath my phony exterior, my vices were rapidly growing. The façade had to stretch to cover all the parts I didn’t want to be seen. The more secret shame I had, the more I had to shore it up with pretended goodness on the other side.

And this, of course, brings us to the next layer of the human soul: shame. When a person makes a decision to start living an authentic life, the first thing they usually bring to light is the naked shame that hides beneath the fancy costume. Tomorrow we will uncover this layer, but we will do so with kindness and understanding.

Layers of Man- Overview

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. - 1 Kings 16:7

In his excellent series Restoring the Shack, author William Paul Young discusses the different layers that there are to a person. He points out that what most of us present to the world is nothing more than a façade, a carefully-constructed window dressing that reveals how we want to be seen, but which is far removed from who we actually are inside. He explains that behind the façade there is an inner layer which may appear more like a broken-down shack. And while we may feel that it would kill us to reveal that part to another person, we will never have any true connection until we do.

John Eldredge also speaks of this idea of layers in his book Wild at Heart. He illustrated how we create a “poser,” a carefully crafted image, whose primary function to is protect an inner wound. The poser prevents anyone from getting to a place that is vulnerable and tender, but as William Paul Young suggests, this again means never having any true connection.

Both Young and Eldredge identify a fake, outer layer, and also a sensitive inner one. Personally I feel that they identify two different inner layers, though. There is the shame, that William Paul Young discusses at great length, and there is the wound, which Eldredge focuses on. But these inner layers cannot represent the entire self either. There must still be a deeper layer, the one that feels hurt by the wound, the one that feels ashamed of the misbehavior.

As I have examined my own life I have found this notion of layers to be absolutely true, and I have recognized the hierarchy that they organize themselves into. Within my life, and I suspect many others, there is

  1. Façade
  2. Shame
  3. Wound
  4. Divine

This sequence of these layers is not random, either. I have presented them in order of intimacy and truth. The deeper you go into the layers, the more secret and sacred of a space you come into.

Over the next few days I will explore each of these layers in turn, and what each specifically represents for me. I will consider how these layers are formed, how they help or hurt us, and how we return to our core self after we recognize the falsehoods of the others. If these notions are new to you they may bring up some difficult realizations. I can understand anyone that doesn’t want to see these intimate parts uncovered, I certainly did not want to go to these places for the first few decades of my life. And for good reason.

But I can also attest that one will never be fully alive until this work is gone through. This is the most important work any of us can do for ourselves, the work of discovering our true, divine heart. Make no mistake, there are dragons ahead, but dragons must be faced!