Shaya Cohen -


The Value of Putting on a Facade

I have often heard people complaining that they “cannot be themselves” in all situations. That we all grow these facades, these personae, that we use with different audiences. We speak to our siblings differently than to our parents – indeed, we have a voice for old people, another one for babies, yet another for foreigners… and somehow this is seen as a bad thing. After all, if you put on a façade for someone, are you then not being true to yourself?

I would make the opposite argument: relationships are hard precisely because they require accommodation, adjustment, growth and learning from experience. After all, those who insist on being the same person to all people are also insisting on being rude to others.

I write this as a contrarian, someone who consciously refuses to do what others do merely because others are doing it. But in my interactions with people, I try extremely hard to never be rude, to never offend. I try to engage with others using conversation and arguments that suit my goals, but using language and social sensitivities that make the other person as comfortable as I know how.

And there is, without a doubt, a profound value in having as broad and deep a relationship as is possible with everyone you meet. Going through the trouble of having different faces depending on the audience is a way of showing respect, and of building constructive relationships. Being multilayered is not a lie: it is a sign of growth and maturity.

Perhaps instead of worrying about being “true to ourselves,” we would be better off worrying if we are not being proactive enough in changing ourselves in order to accommodate others? After all, loving your fellow means you have to first try to see things from his perspective, to think as he does. Once you do that, then you try to find the best way to communicate – and that also involves changing yourself in order to make that possible.

So put me down as someone who believes that wearing different facades is the sign of a civilized and sensitive person, a person who changes myself for others precisely because I care about other people.

This is also at the heart of Judeo-Christian religious practice: we share the belief in personal growth and change and the opportunity for redemption. The person we present to the Creator is not our natural selves, but a highly refined and elevated version of our animal selves.

Comments are welcome!

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