Social media lights up when a well-known and well-loved celebrity dies in a deliberate suicide or an accidental one by drug overdose. On purpose or unintended, the person is still dead and fans are heartbroken. More questions abound than answers. After all, don’t fame, wealth, and preferential treatment bring about happiness?
The words hypocrisy and acting have similar meanings in the Greek. A good actor can convince you of words, ideas, and motives that he doesn’t hold. Whether he makes you laugh or cry, he is pretending. What’s more, with the state of technology today, actors go to work on a set, and much of the actual context in which they are placed is a bare propless studio, with a background inserted during the editing process. So, these “hypocrites” really are playing dress-up and pretend. Yet, their adoring fans credit them with super heroic powers, clever comebacks, breathtaking stunts, and beautiful complexions to boot. How difficult it must be to have to be “regular” when the silver screen has made you bigger than life, and when the “you” loved by the fans is not the real you at all!
There is a lesson for all of us, parents especially, in times such as these. Have we made ourselves “bigger than life” to our children? Have we pretended that we know all the answers? Do we cover up mistakes and bad judgments so that we don’t lose our “superhero” status in their lives? Do we cover up abusive situations in our families and churches to escape the shame of the truth being found out? Are we well-versed in being “hypocritical actors”?
I remember the first time each of my children learned that I didn’t know everything. It usually happened within the context of an event we were experiencing together for the first time. Inevitably, I would get a “Why did that person do that?” question. When I responded that I didn’t know, their looks were incredulous: “What do you mean you don’t know?”
These responses were rendered in frustration and annoyance. After all, they wanted answers, and they wanted them immediately. Somehow or another, I had tarnished their view of me. Keep in mind that I never claimed to know all things. In fact, in my eyes, I had spent a good deal of time teaching them that only God knew all things. But, obviously, the message hadn‘t been delivered clearly enough.
We need to make sure we don’t convey (advertently or inadvertently) that we have all the answers, and that problematic situations need to be covered up. And, we need to make sure that we don’t place that burden on others. I cannot help but think that celebrity suicides, often the end of the line for depression, addiction, and broken relationships, occur when celebrities are weary of keeping up their upbeat public persona in the midst of excruciating inner-personal lives. After all, their fan-base demands that they hide their vulnerabilities and masquerade their hurt (either inflicted upon or received from others). They are caught in the trap of having an image to uphold in order to continue to reap financial benefits and fame.
It’s time we evaluate, in ourselves and our families, how much we have appropriated from the fantasy world of the celebrity, and make sure that we don’t mimic the pretense of well-adjustment in our own lives when, in fact, we are desperately hurting.
The Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens. Keep in mind that this instruction also means we need to share our burdens. After all, if someone won’t share, another cannot bear. We must learn to recognize when others are expecting too much of us, and when we are doing the same with them. In the process, we’ll find that the hurt, horror, or shame that can lead someone to take his/her own life, is much more easily confronted when we take off the masks of pretense. We may fool others, but we’ve not fooled God.