My three sons love to dress up. Everyday they embark upon a new adventure: pretending to fly, fight crime, or any number of other superhero fantasies.
And although I’m hesitant to admit it, I’ve learned that I dress up as well. While they do it for fun, I do it because I think I have to. I put on capes as an attempt to understand my own identity.
It’s funny to me that superheroes conceal themselves—their true identities—underneath average, everyday attire, yet in an effort to find my real identity, I pretend to be a superhero.
This is a new revelation for me, but it has been one of the most liberating discoveries in my adult life. The reason why is different for all of us, but I believe the root of the issue is fear.
Deep down, we question: if I take off the cape, will they like what they see?
To combat this anxiety, we choose words like bravery and we dress up in costumes as a way to hide the fact that we’re really afraid.
When I first began writing and speaking, I called on some wise individuals who had years of experience in this new-to-me endeavor. These folks helped me build a stable foundation.
However, one particular mentor, who must have had x-ray vision, made me aware of something I hadn’t seen.
“Tuck in your cape,” he said. He was direct and, at the same time, sincere.
He went on to remind me to be humble and serve others instead of putting so much focus on me. Honestly, all I could think about was the fact that my cape was showing.
I’ve since discovered that I don’t just have one cape, I have many.
There’s my fatherhood cape.
I put on a grin, grab my BEST DAD coffee mug, and I play the part well. I smile at birthday parties, I sing silly songs, and we all hold hands walking into church. But beneath that facade, I don’t have a clue if I’m a good father or not.
Under the cape, the responsibilities of fatherhood overwhelm me. Most days, I’m just trying to make sure we survive. When I reach a breaking point, I tear my cape off only to reveal my selfishness and desire for control. That’s not what you see, but that’s reality.
There’s my business cape.
I pretend to be bulletproof in my business suit and I fight proverbial crime in my office. Day and night, I work as a way to reinforce my need to believe that I’m doing great, important things.
When my cell phone rings, I answer it because my service is impeccable—even when I’m at home.
But this cape conceals the reality that my boys wonder if they’re more important than my clients. Will my workaholism potentially destroy the very family I’m trying to provide for?
There’s my religious cape.
This one is devilishly sneaky. I quote Bible verses as a way to justify my agenda and I check spiritual boxes of obedience to prove my reverence. In turn, I snub my nose at those who don’t hold my ideals with a sheepish, “I’ll pray for them.”
Beneath the cape, I try to wash down my doubts with a beer, but I can’t silence the questions in my heart.
Why do good people suffer?
Why does it seem like the villains are winning?
Although my mentor was right about the cape, tucking them in doesn’t work.
It’s time to take them off.
Finding Our True Selves
I’m tired of pretending. Trying to dress up as some type of faux superhero is exhausting.
That’s why I’m taking my cape(s) off.
We live in a messy, broken world, and the only way to combat it is to reveal the messy and broken parts of our real selves. Not as a way to say, “Hey, look at me,” but as a way to quit pretending.
Somewhere along the way, we were told that messy and broken isn’t beautiful—that strength is found in the absence of struggle.
Strength is found when we take off our capes and reveal our true self that is hidden underneath.
Here’s what I’m learning about me:
I love my kids to death, but they drive me crazy. I have no clue how to parent through some of the issues they face and sometimes it seems easier just to give-up.
My job is often mundane and I try to excel as a way to make it feel more important.
I’m not a spiritual rockstar, I’m a sinner, saved by grace. And I need that grace often.
These truths may seem average and very un-exciting. But I think that’s how we really begin to help others. We tell them the truth.
Because curiously, like superheroes, when we are our true selves, it helps people. When people are able to see our realness, it lets them know that it’s okay to take off their capes too.
Dressing up is supposed to be fun, it’s not supposed to be a lifestyle. We’re supposed to grow through adversity, not cover it up.
As I finish typing these words, I looking at my cape lying on the floor next to me. It’s scary, but at the same time, it’s incredibly freeing.
You should give it a try.
Sign up for our news letter for a bi-monthly dose of encouragement:
About the Author
Matt Ham is primarily a husband and father to three boys. As an author and speaker, he is dedicated to guiding others toward living a rich life. Through his RICH Principles he helps folks uncover fullness, identifying real treasure and discovering true joy and contentment in both their professional and personal lives.
You can order a limited hardback version of the book at www.redefinerich.com
To contact Matt or inquire about his speaking schedule, visit www.mattham.com/speaking