This past spring I read TrueFaced by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall and I just re-read it again this past week. I was interested in this book because I was impacted a lot by the book Ascent of a Leader by the same authors a long while ago. I owned this book but just never got around to reading it.
The book is really about authentic leadership as compared to performing or “false” leadership. It is not an attempt to do a deep dive on new self, false-self theology. However, there is a good basic foundation of theology in this book for how identity impacts character, behavior, and leadership. The book explores how performance mindsets and approaches to dealing with vulnerability, limitations, and especially sin can lead to false faces – or masks.
The mask metaphor has grown quite common in the last couple decades since this book came out. The reality has always been true – that leaders develop a false face or imposter identity that is aimed at pleasing others or performing for God and end up creating culture and environments that replicate that kind of falseness and allergy to the truth and authentic vulnerability. The authors here specifically attack the ways a Christian approach to orienting life around “pleasing God” leads to a spiral of inauthentic ways of relating to others. This is a book for sinners and legalists – which is all of us so I recommend it!
The authors talk about 3 groups of masks – one is the “doing fine” folks who hide behind shallowness and avoidance of intimacy; another is the “fixers” who go hunting from one technique to the next to solve what they sense is wrong or not working; and the third they call the “pedigreed masks” which are masks anchored in self-righteousness or performance.
Then they dive into chapters specifically on Grace, Love, Repentance, Forgiveness, and Maturity. The strength of the book I think is some of the unpacking of what grace is and what it is not and how that impacts love, repentance, and forgiveness. There are great discussions on how grace based love impacts others, what authentic grace based reptentance looks like, and what forgiveness is and is not.
Fundamentally, they argue that our motive to please God must be submitted to our calling to trust God with who we are and what He has done for us. This could be a topic for some healthy debate, but I tend to agree with them. The Scripture points us to the truth that without faith it’s impossible to please God. So if we try to please without trusting God with ALL of who we are, then we are entering false-self territory.
At the core, I believe one of the great many reasons why the Christian church in the West and elsewhere has lost a lot of its credibility and its voice in the culture is because the focus of “church” has been pleasing as opposing to trusting and resting in God’s grace. Pleasing leads to self-righteousness and condescension. Trusting in the identity God has given us leads us to a freedom in our limitations and with the limitations of others. That would have significant impact.
There are a lot of versions of this book out there and it may be hard to get the original version of this book, but there are some versions available. If you want to read the full original book you may need to find a used book online.