Perfect Facade

About the Poem

“Perfect Facade” was inspired by real stories from real youth. It was written to express the dangers of combining perfectionism and extra-biblical rules through poetic story. While it does not reflect my current situation, there was a point at which it did. Today, it resonates with dozens of others who I know personally, and quite possibly thousands who I’ll never meet.

Rules that aren’t taught in scripture, that don’t cause “real harm to real people,” and that aren’t clear applications of biblical principles, are understandably very hard to enforce on to other Christians’ lives. All too often, leaders will use their love and favor as a way to pressure young people into carrying on tradition. This can cause the youth to feel used–as if they’re only loved for their usefulness and not for who they are in Christ.

While biblical discipleship requires caring relationship, governing through rules often fosters distance and coldness. If the youth adopt the opinions of their leaders? There’s admiration, approval and praise. If they develop differing opinions? There’s silence, accusations, and even disdain. The desire for favor can push them to pretend they believe things that they don’t actually believe. When this happens, they start to struggle with doubt and insecurity on whether or not they are truly loved, or if only the person they pretend to be is loved. They also may become defensive and distrusting. Opening up and being real could cause irreversible harm to their leader’s view of them, resulting in a loss of “love” and closeness.

Authentic growth is nearly impossible in such a predicament. Far from the loving, trusting relationships found in true discipleship, these youths find themselves trapped—trapped in a perfect facade.

– Natalie Mayo

I sit here in a church house, there’s an aching in my heart.

I know I seem just fine, I always look the part.

My elders, they adore me, but their bragging brings me tears.

They don’t even know me, though I’ve attended here for years.

They think that I’m the “perfect” youth; I truly want to be,

But deep inside, I know I’m not. Do they even care to see?

They put me on the platform—to testify, to sing.

I do the things they say to do: I teach, I play, I clean.

I keep the rules they say to keep,

I say the things they say to speak,

I keep the standards, toe the line,

I’d never dare to question “why?”

but all the while, I die inside.

They call me the hope of their churches, they say I’m the best of the best.

It seems it’s just these outer things that measure my success.

They tell me that they love me, they tell me that they’re proud.

I shudder to think of what they’d tell if I ever thought aloud.

I wonder if they’d love me if they knew I disagree;

I wonder if they’d hug me, if they saw what God can see.

I’m really quite confused; I open a Bible to stare.

Those rules they said were scripture? I can’t find them anywhere.

The reasons why we do these things? To be blunt, I find them lacking.

But if I ever said so… I’m afraid I’d be sent packing.

I’m afraid these men who “love me” would turn and walk away,

Disown me altogether, and claim I’ve gone astray.

I hear I’m the “cream of the crop.” My baptist friends? “Subpar.”

I hear I shouldn’t talk to them, my reputation it would mar.

But in those “subpar” Christian friends, I crave something I see.

I crave their smile—it’s genuine. I wish that could be me,

Open, honest, transparent, authentic—the freedom to be real.

Truly known; truly loved! ‘No idea how that would feel.

If only it were Christ I could wholeheartedly pursue!

Pleasing men is such hard work, I feel it’s all I do.

I wonder if they’d love me if I dared to disagree…

Or do they only love the youth that I pretend to be?

Would they accept who I truly am, if they knew what I truly believe?

Or would the men who pat my back, turn their backs and briskly leave?

I’m dying inside! I need Your help, God!

I’m dying inside, in this perfect facade.


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