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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Where’s Waldo?

Do you ever get the feeling that some of us are a little like Waldo—yes that Waldo—the one in the Where’s Waldo pictures? We hide ourselves in plain sight, hoping to be found, but sadly we have done such a good job that we often remain hidden and opaque to the very people we hope will discover us.

There are a lot of ways to hide—some of us do this on a physical level. We wear clothing, hairstyles, or adopt personas designed to portray someone other than who we really are. We can see this behavior in Internet dating profile pictures where some of us actually hide our bodies—in whole or in part, behind a sofa, a tree, in a group shot, hot tub, you name it. Are we ashamed—do we feel exposed? What do these behaviors say about us?

Well for one thing, they convey insecurity. These behaviors say we are not comfortable with ourselves, physically, emotionally or spiritually. We are hiding because as much as we want to be found, we are afraid that when we are spotted in the wild the reaction won’t be positive. Sometimes we disguise who we really are, in the hope someone will be attracted to who we wish we were. We are wearing aspirational disguises. This behavior cannot lead to what we hope for—real and meaningful relationships.

I have often wondered what we expect will happen if we go out on an actual date and have to reveal ourselves as we actually are? Wouldn’t it be better to be real, knowing that anyone who responds has already seen our true presence and been attracted?

The self-doubt and fear this behavior reveals about us tells a story about our inability to look inside—to see ourselves without judgement, without filters, as God’s children, wonderfully made and beautiful regardless of the exterior package. The truth is—and I say this as a man who admires physical beauty in women and men, that what attracts me even more is a beautiful spirit. I am not alone in this view.

There is another form of hiding that I want to talk about today. It takes a more subtle form. You’ll see it in written profiles from time to time, in the form of a statement that begins with something like this: “My friends say that I am…... When I read this my first reaction is to wonder why anyone would think that the words of total strangers have more veracity than what we say about ourselves. Why are we uncomfortable talking about ourselves?

When we are not comfortable with who we are, we hedge. We find a way to give attribution to someone else or use what I fondly describe as weasel words—language that is vague or indirect to purposefully smudge over the things about which we are uncomfortable. In Life Love and Internet Dating I speak about this tendency to use euphemisms to get around what we are uncomfortable saying directly. We all recognize such words and phrases—here are some you’ll see frequently: I am…spiritual but not religious, fun-loving, carefree. There are dozens more of course and we all recognize them for what they are, code words that signal something other than what they say. Fun loving—that’s one of my favorites. Show me someone who isn’t? Don’t we all love to have fun? How about, carefree, really? Are any of us so secure and happy that we have no cares?

When we lean on these empty expressions it isn’t that we lack words, it is because we don’t know what to say. The fact is we haven’t spent enough time with ourselves to learn who we truly are—so we project someone we think others might find attractive. But, we and they are hoping to meet someone who is honest enough to say what they think and who they are; someone able to laugh at themselves and hold the mirror up to their own foibles and flaws, because such people are truly loving, open and forgiving of themselves and others.

Let me single out the one phrase that troubles me the most: ‘I am spiritual but not religious’. You hear this sentiment frequently and not just on dating sites. What exactly does it mean to be spiritual but not religious? Does it mean I don’t go to church, the mosque, temple? Or does it convey something much more profound. I am uncomfortable with the idea of God, or I don’t like the ritual and trappings of religious ceremony. Any or all of these rationalizations are what lie underneath that innocent statement, I am spiritual but not religious.

Let’s not be squeamish here. It’s ok to say that we don’t believe. But that is not quite what we may intend—often what we are saying is, I want to believe in something. I want to believe in a higher being, a higher self, a sense that the universe is just not random, but I don’t believe that there is a God, or at least believe in a God who cares or a God that allows bad things to happen.

This is a subject for another post, but I want to say here to those who express this view that I get it. Acknowledging that yearning or fear or desire for there to be a sense of order, rightness and reason to what happens in the universe is a great place to start on your faith journey. You don’t have to believe in God right now, just know that He believes in you, and he can find you even if you are hiding. If you spend some time alone with yourselves you may find that you grow a little closer to him, after all, as he said, I am in you and you are in me.

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