Persona and Masks: Living in Authenticity

“The persona of a clergyman may be partly a posture he adopts for himself, and partly a mask that others hand him to wear.” John A. Sanford

Those in ministry are often challenged by a perception they are attempting to portray. This perception is created by personal expectations as well as congregational expectations. You believe a minister ought to be viewed in a certain light, while a congregation believes a minister ought to behave in a particular fashion. Often neither set of expectations represent the true self. I believe many in ministry today don’t recognize true self and confuse it with one’s or other’s expectations. We have been playing a role that is less than authentic. We cry for authenticity, yet we neither give ourselves permission nor assume we’ll be given permission to live out the true self by others.

I believe ministers carry a large part of the blame for this position. We’ve created a holy persona – one we believe to be acceptable to others. Yet, I’ve got to blame the church for this one, too. They’re the ones that handed off the mask to begin with; this is what we want our minister to look like. While I believe those in ministry are held to higher standard, that standard never included perfection; that is our impossibility. To think that a minister should be perfect or even adhere to everyone’s hand crafted mask is nothing short of deceit.

John A. Sanford said, “No no one can be saintly and religious, filled with faith, love, patience and selflessness all the time. We can strike a pose and seem this way, but if it is not what we genuinely are and feel at the time, we are not real but something of a fake.” My soul yearns for authenticity as I carry a mask just in case. Do ministers dare to practice authenticity or will we and the people we serve continue to wear masks? I vote for authenticity knowing it comes at a price.