This week I’ve been working on an article for Fuller Youth Institute on the topic of failure.

What do we do when our kid’s fail?

Or more importantly, do we allow our kids to fail, or are we constantly rescuing them from it?

It’s been a tough article to write, especially as I explore a theology of failure and encourage ways that parents can move towards their kids in the midst of failure.

So it was so encouraging this morning to come across this blog post by my friend Emily P. Freeman (aka the brave female who endorsed my new book for men–thank you Emily). In the post one thing your daughter doesn’t need you to say Freeman writes about an experience she recently had on a radio show when a Jr. High School girl called in sharing about the anxiety she experiences between living in the tension of being herself and trying to be a good example for her friends.

After not really knowing how to answer the girl live on the air, and after thinking on it more that day, Freeman writes:

Here’s what I came up with: She isn’t supposed to be an example. Her friends don’t need an example, they need a friend. A real one. An honest one. A touchable one. They need a friend who doesn’t think she’s better than everyone, but one who knows she isn’t. They need a friend who knows she needs Jesus.

So what about being a leader and setting the example? Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what parents and youth leaders tell students all the time?

The more I think about it, the more I believe this well-meaning statement is not only a manipulative way to try to control our daughters’ behavior, but can also be dangerous to their spiritual health. When we tell her to be an example, we may as well just hand her a mask right there – Here. Hide behind this. Don’t let them see you struggle.

I love this.

Emily is right. When we are being our true authentic self…the one whom God created…that’s when our most natural strengths emerge and that is when we are actually being the example we need to be.

Our example is living out of the authentic self that God created.

In my book The Anxious Christian I write on this topic of masks:

The word for mask comes from the ancient Greek word prosopon, meaning “about the eyes,” or literally, “face.” The mask was a tool the actor used to play a part. By putting on the mask, the actor became another person by vanishing into the face of an acting role. We hide because we live in a culture, especially a Christian culture, that tells us something is wrong with us for experiencing anxiety. Therefore, in our shame, we retreat and hide behind masks and costumes that say, “Hey, look at me, I’m successful. I have everything under control. Life is good.” We project this image while underneath we are wrestling with fears, worries and inadequacies. (pp. 34-35)

Most people come into my office for therapy because in some part of their life they are hiding behind masks. Masks in their marriage. Masks at their work. Masks as a parent and friend.

Helping people put down their masks so they can be the person that God knit and knew in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139) is the life we are called to live.