For the better part of fifteen years, Alicia Keys has been one of the world’s most respected and sought-after musicians. She’s performed with some of the industry’s biggest names, and the way she’s able to mesh her vocal talents with an ear for the music behind her is nothing short of amazing. Yet, despite her success and acclaim, Keys has grown increasingly frustrated in recent years with a sense of personal dishonesty, stemming from her attempts to balance the expectations of others with who she truly wanted to be.
As she recently wrote, “I was finally uncovering just how much I censored myself, and it scared me. Who was I anyway? Did I even know how to be brutally honest anymore? Who I wanted to be?”
As a way of publicly confronting those issues of self-doubt, Keys decided back in May to stop wearing makeup. While that may seem like a minor move to some of us, for a woman whose photo is taken everywhere she goes, putting every freckle and line on display for the world to see wasn’t an easy decision.
And the natural look isn’t just for every-day affairs. Keys is committed to not wearing makeup in TV interviews, performances, and on the upcoming season of The Voice, where more than thirteen million people are expected to tune in this fall. It’s a bold move, and one that she hopes will inspire others to feel more comfortable in their own skin, whether they wear makeup or not.
You see, for Keys, the makeup was a way to cope with her insecurities rather than confront them. By going natural, she’s telling the world—but more importantly, herself—that “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”
All of us wear makeup of one sort or another—something to help mask the aspects of who we are that make us most uncomfortable. Sometimes we make that choice because we simply don’t want to deal with our faults and it’s simply easier to hide them. Scripture is clear, however, that such a strategy won’t work long term (Luke 12:2–3).
Yet, often times, the masks are for the benefit of others more than ourselves. It’s so easy to develop preconceived notions about how others see us and to fear their judgment when the reality is that they are much too busy worrying about how we see them to give our minor flaws a second thought.
As Keys discovered, though, the weight of such perceptions can crush even the strongest of people. Fortunately, we serve a God who not only sees through our masks but couldn’t possibly love us any more, flaws and all (Romans 5:8). And while that doesn’t mean that he accepts our shortcomings or is fine with leaving us in our sin, it does mean that we don’t have to be afraid of letting those aspects of who we are come to the light. After all, he can’t help us fix that which we’re convinced is fine as is. And seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is not only the best way to confront our sins, but also to help those around us do the same.
The world doesn’t need perfect Christians, it needs honest ones. Our best witness is found in the understanding that we don’t need to fear our flaws because we have encountered a God who loves us absolutely in spite of them. That, more than anything else, is what our culture is starving to find. Will you help them encounter it today?