Not 2-(but 4)-Faced

The mirror is one of my chiefest reflection-stations. There I stand with my eyes wide open, fixated on the countenance, truly, the countenances staring back at me. For I have (and, dare I presume to universalize my experience, each of us has) four faces.

A public face shown to the world. This (sometimes, “masked man”) is how I present myself and how I desire to be viewed by others.[1]

A private face. The one I, in the confines of my personal space and in the comfort of the presence of those who know me well, sans mask, take the risk to reveal. My good cheer and tempestuous moods. My charity and selfishness. My laughter and tears. My generous and critical judgments. My kindly words and my unbridled, at times, profane speech.[2]

A secret face. The one whose eyes peer inward to behold those matters known only to me, which I do not share with others, save the all-seeing-all-knowing God.[3] They include (for there is more than the following!) the past and present manifestations, in my thoughts, words, and deeds, of the seven deadly sins of pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice, and sloth and my dreams so far deferred and denied, whether honorable or ignoble, for which I continue to long (even if or as I believe that their fulfillment is only a dream).

A hidden face.[4] The shadowy visage of my unconscious self. Instincts and intuitions that move below the surface of my awareness. Deep, interred memories beyond the reach of my recall (mostly, the fruits of the seeds of fleeting impressions gathered, without sentient attention, during the course of my daily living). Unseen, unknown motives that stand apart, unfettered from my command or control.

Four – public, private, secret, and hidden – faces; each a reflection of one person. Me.

Long ago, I believed that the point of maturation was to move toward the integration of my faces into some unified whole. However, now, in my seventh decade of living, having found this to be a Sisyphean task, I have resolved that each of my faces has its own unique, necessary, and (pun intended!) ineffaceable purpose.

© 2021 PRA

[1] Despite my intentions, others can perceive me in ways that may not approximate what I propose to project. Moreover, given the dynamics of human interaction, as an additional and unavoidable layer of complexity, others can behold aspects of my person and personality that I do not, cannot see.

[2] In this, I recall a sage word many years ago of the sometime bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, the Right Reverend John Thomas Walker, who, at my installation as the pastor of a D.C. church, opined, “One’s good reputation oft is preserved by the public silence of one’s family and friends.” Amen!

[3] I am reminded of Nathanael, who sat under a fig tree; in ancient Israel, a private place where one exposed the secrets of the heart only to God. Nathanael, invited to meet Jesus, arose from his prayerful contemplation. Jesus, seeing Nathanael approach, called out to him with a greeting and description that Nathanael recognized as true about himself; thus, impossible for a stranger to know. Jesus explains, “I saw you under the fig tree”; “saw” meaning more than mere physical sight. This revelation led Nathanael to proclaim Jesus to be “the Son of God” (John 1.43-51).

[4] Here, I think of the counsel of Apostle Paul: Now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13.12). Although Paul’s primary focus, as I interpret him, is the distinction between life in this world and life in eternity, for him (and for me!), in this life, we do not see (know) ourselves clearly (fully). Moreover, although mindful that I possess (and am possessed by!) an unconscious self, it is usually when asleep that I behold in my dreams (at times, nightmares!) the fleeting images of my hidden face.

3 thoughts on “Not 2-(but 4)-Faced

  1. Ohhhhh My!!!! Public, Private, Secret & Hidden…all reflections of ourselves. I’ll be examining my four faces this week!! I may even use this for one of my caregiver presentations because I think it would be so helpful to look at all the faces we have as caregivers!!

    Wow!! Love this one! My head is spinning with ideas!



  2. Terrific! Happy to have sparked some ideas! If you use the concepts, please, share with me what you did and how it was received.



    1. You KNOW I will!!!! Thank you for the richness of this post!!



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