artificial, “cellophane” smiles, bitter cup, churchy behaviors, circumstances, crying, depressed, fake, happy, joyful, less than genuine, letdowns, phonies, plastic people, plasticness, playing church, rejoicing, sad, setbacks, struggles, sugary, sweet cup, transparent smiles, unhappy, washouts, wearing masks
Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. ~ Romans 12:15, MSG
When you are joyful, be joyful; when you are sad, be sad. If God has given you a sweet cup, don’t make it bitter; and if He has given you a bitter cup, don’t try and make it sweet; take things as they come. ~ from Shade of His Hand, 1979; by Oswald Chambers
All the plastic people
What do they all come for?
Verses 4 and 5:
Will give you a conversation
To avoid a situation
That needs contemplation
With the cellophane smile
Ain’t never been a problem child
But he will be after a while
~ lyrics from “Plastic Jim” on the 1968 Life album by Sly & The Family Stone
While growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I heard so many fantastically wonderful expressions that are still being used in this 21st century. One of my favorites is “plastic people,” which most always referred to artificial, sugary, fake, less than genuine people who had “cellophane” smiles. In other words, plastic people thought that they were hiding the most unpleasant parts of their lives behind their wide grins, but the truth was that their cellophane (very transparent) smiles always told on them.
For as long as I can remember, I always had been around many plastic people, and oddly enough most of them were churchgoers. Today is no different. The 21st century’s churches still are full of plastic people.
Yet, what I can’t seem to understand is why people in their sixties and seventies, who claim to have been born again and saved in their teens and early twenties, are still behaving like plastic people—are still “playing” church; are still behaving like phonies or fakes—especially about what is happening in their lives! They wear the mask of contentment, while they play the part of a continually, totally, and genuinely happy (satisfied, fulfilled, complete, pleased, comfortable, at ease) person, when in reality they are not in the least bit happy. Usually, once their smiles fade, but sometimes while they are still smiling, they begin to bark at people, lie to people, gossip about people, hate on people, and the like.
Sometimes these plastic Christians even act like they are so much better than “other” believers, but maybe that is because they want “other” believers to think that their rehearsed “God is good” mantra means EVERYTHING in their lives is peachy keen (super-duper, just perfect, hunky dory, jim dandy, two thumbs up, excellent, fine, marvelous, great, and etc.), when the converse is true. For sure, more often than not, the real truth is that these plastic people are too ashamed to let “other” believers know that “someone’s” actions have devastated their lives, or that they have devastated “someone’s” life by their actions, or that (for whatever reasons) they really are in pain; they really are hurting; they really are brokenhearted; they really feel alone; they really feel lost; and so forth.
Because I grew tired of being plastic, myself, I purposed in my heart and soul, over 20 years ago, that I would stop playing “church,” which is what I was doing whenever I gave all of the expected “churchy” responses, “churchy” facial expressions, and “churchy” body gestures. In their place, I decided that I would be REAL with everyone about my failures, about who I am, and about how I feel.
For the record, I never meant for my honest sharing of unfamiliar with humiliating embarrassments/imperfections, nerdy idiosyncrasies, and upsetting situations to offend anyone, nor did I ever mean to make anyone uncomfortable with my truthfulness about who I am, what I have done or was doing, what I had to cope with, and/or what I had to suffer or was suffering. Nevertheless, some of my family and closest friends not only had been offended and were made uncomfortable but also some were appalled by what I blatantly shared with them.
What I unfortunately have learned, however, is that there always will be people who can’t handle the naked truth, especially if it deals with humans’ tremendously depressing or immensely tragic circumstances. Too many people today, Christians included, clearly haven’t learned how to be happy with the individuals who are happy, nor have they learned how to be sad or how to cry with the folks who are sad or crying (cf. Romans 12:15). Instead, these can’t handle the naked truth people, as well as those people who don’t want to handle the naked truth, have perfected how to shame mortals who are not happy, 24/7, about EVERYTHING that has happened to them!
Personally, I think all of us have been displaying our plasticness, to some degree, whenever we were hiding our true feelings, flaws, sins, mistakes, and so forth. Moreover, because most of us have been taught, by people we love and trust, to not let anybody see our weaknesses, hurts, pains, and etc., we naively buy into their false teaching. That is why over time, too many of us incorrectly conclude that being “plastic” was better than being “for real,” because by then we also had learned that if we revealed our hurts, pains, disappointments, unhappy feelings, flops, mistakes, sins, and so forth, many of our “churches’” self-righteous folks, who generally are our family and friends, would criticize us for having them.
Let’s face it. No one wants to be told that he or she isn’t spiritual enough, or that he or she doesn’t trust God enough, or that he or she doesn’t have “enough” faith, or that he or she isn’t truly saved. Yet, sorry to say, these experienced and/or heard about often very severe disapprovals, usually coming from so-called born again and saved family members and friends, are frequently why too many believers decide to choose to be plastic people.
Funny thing is, though, being plastic isn’t the godly way to be. Indeed, not even apostle Paul’s “content,” as rendered in most English translations of Philippians 4:11, can be understood to mean he continually showed how happy he was by wearing a smiley face 24/7. Not at all. In fact, since he knew that Christ Jesus taught that in this world His believers would have trials and tribulations, that is why the apostle Paul uses the word translated as “content” to mean that, because he totally trusts in the finished work of Christ Jesus, Paul is satisfied to the point where he no longer can be disturbed or disquieted by anything that happens to him in this world.
Honestly, if Christians sought the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s wisdom about their plasticness, both God’s Word and His Holy Spirit’s teaching on God’s Word definitely would help plastic Christians know and understand that it is utterly silly to think that Father God or Christ Jesus expects the followers of Christ to walk around grinning and acting like they are so happy about being lied to, lied on, slandered, abused, abandoned, divorced, impoverished, persecuted, or even crucified! The Scriptures never describe Christ Jesus doing that, and since His believers are supposed to follow His lead, then they shouldn’t be “acting” like that either.
The bottom line is that if we are genuine Christians who truly believe that Father God is working ALL things out (working out the good, the bad, and the unpleasantly UGLY things that have happened or will happen in our lives) for the good of those of us who are called according to His purpose (cf. Romans 8:28), then we also must really believe, not just “act” like we believe, that Sovereign God certainly is in total control of everything that happens in this world. When we have genuine Faith in Father God, we won’t act like human beings are in control of the circumstances, letdowns, struggles, setbacks, washouts, and so on, that come our way. When we have genuine Faith in Father God, we also won’t be afraid to show happiness when we are happy, and sadness when we are sad, and etc. Lastly, when we have genuine Faith in Father God, we know how to take things as they come—we know how to be truly “content” (to no longer be disturbed or disquieted by anything that happens to us in this world, because we faithfully trust in the finished work of Christ Jesus). As a result, we will have no need to be plastic Christians on the road to becoming problem children with disruptive, ungodly behaviors.