One thing I always walk away from the Scriptures with is the reminder that character really, really matters. I don’t pretend to be a perfect man, of course. Not even close. But something that scares me the most is how easy it is to put on a good show in public.
We see this all the time at work and church, don’t we, sometimes in innocent ways (and other times not so innocent)? Like when asked how we’re doing and we usually say, “Fine,” even when the morning has been a complete and utter disaster. Or when someone acts like they’ve got all their stuff together, but they’re cheating on their spouse.1 Although we should always be respectful and courteous in public, the truth is, our outward appearances don’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things. They’re not a good indication of what’s going on in our hearts—because we can hide in public. I love the way Augustus Hopkins Strong describes this:
Little things are the best signs of character. Straws thrown into the air show which way the wind blows much better than the throwing up of bullets or cannonballs. In great things we have more thought of others, we are moved more by surrounding influences. In little things there is not the same possibility of concealment. We must sometimes forget, and then we act ourselves.2
This is important for me to remember, and not just because what we do in private (the small things) sets the tone for what happens in public. They’re key indicators, without question.3 But it’s also important because the people who are closest to me can see it, often better than I can. My wife has a better sense of my growth in godliness because she sees how it’s working itself out in the little things: how I respond to correction from her. How I treat our kids. What I say at the dinner table and when we’re alone.
With the people closest to us, there is no need for fronts. We don’t need to pretend we’re something that we’re not. They already know we’re all messes—and they give us the freedom to grow by God’s grace.