Saving face is very important in Asian cultures. But what does “saving face” really mean?
Each one of us has a “face”, or a mask that we like to wear—a “face” that says, “I am a good person.” Why do we feel the need to wear this mask? Why is it important for us to “save face”? Could it be that there’s something not so nice inside of us that we’re trying to hide?
The fact is, we are all sinful. Our hearts are naturally full of selfishness, pride, and ugliness. We know that this is not good, and it makes us feel ashamed. So we try to hide under a mask. We don’t want people to know how ugly and broken we are inside.
Inevitably, things will happen that cause us to “lose face”—to expose some of our imperfections and/or the ugliness of our natural hearts, and people begin to see that we are not really “good people” on the inside. We respond to this in different ways—some hang their heads and mope in silent embarrassment, wishing they could disappear. Others become violent, angrily lashing out at the one who caused them to “lose face” in front of others.
Actually, even though Asians are the most known for their cultural value of “saving face,” it is really ingrained into every human being. We all try to “save face” and make good impressions so that people will think well of us. This is not distinct only to Asians. The difference is that Asians tend to be more sensitive to each other’s feelings, not wanting to embarrass or shame anyone, whereas Western cultures tend to value self-preservation—saving our own “face”—above the feelings or “faces” of others.
Now that we have defined the concept of “saving face,” my next question is what does “saving face” mean to the Christian?
I would like to propose a novel concept: Jesus Christ came to this earth so that we won’t need to “save face” anymore.
We try to “save face” in order to preserve our masks that cover up the ugliness and brokenness inside. But Christ came to cleanse us from our ugliness and repair our brokenness. He came to give us His love, His humility, His goodness in place of our selfishness, our pride, and our sinfulness. He came to give us His “face”—which is not a mask, but a true reflection of what is inside: perfect goodness.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26, 27
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:6, 7
When we have the face of Jesus Christ, we speak His words and do His works, motivated by His heart of love. We are no longer concerned about our reputation, about “saving face,” because we have nothing to hide anymore. (See Philippians 2:5–7.) We are the same inside as we are outside, because we have Jesus in our heart. Yes, we may still make mistakes and have imperfections; however, our desire is not that people will think good about ourselves, but that they will see Jesus in us. We live to preserve His reputation, not our own.
What kind of “face” do you have today? Do you have the face of Jesus?