Science in Christian Perspective




Stanley Lindquist, Ph.D.
Person and Personage

From: JASA 12 (December 1960): 113.

An interesting concept in some schools of psychology that aid in understanding of ourselves and others is the idea of "person" and "personage."

The personage is the mask or front that everyone puts -on. It is developed primarily because we think that the "person" is not adequate to be accepted as is, or else because the "person" is too tender to be exposed to difficulties of face to face relationships.

The person is the true part of oneself. It is that which we are when our defenses are down, and when the personage is stripped from us. In a sense, I suppose, it is that which God sees when He views us without the social amenities or other defenses we put up-the psychological "fig leaves" that are part of US.

If we truly felt and accepted ourselves as we are, there would be no need for the development of a personage. But we don't, and therefore have to set up this mask to hide our true selves.

The question comes, Do we ever show our real person? Perhaps there are moments when our mask slips off, and we do reveal our real selves. In real love, which seems to wrest us from the commonplace, our person shows. In psychotherapy, when a person is trying with extraordinary honesty to reveal himself to a therapist, perhaps the personage is set aside.

One might well speculate as to the necessity for revealing the "person." Why not be content with the personage? Is the "person" worthy of ~revelation?

The last question could be answered first. God has placed a value of infinite proportions on our Soul, which certainly must be inclusive of the "person." If it is worth that to Him, shouldn't it be to us? And if so, isn't it worth revealing?

The first question-of being content with the Clpersonage" being our basic personality representation is to be satisfied with something not quite true.

But more important, because there is a disparity between the person and personage, there is a constant strain to keep the front up. This may be unconscious, and the resultant conscious correlate may be weariness, boredom, and in some cases psychosomatic illness.

The inability to feel able to be "oneself" or to let the "person" be our true representation creates tension. There can be no freedom in our life and personality with this tension.

This may well be what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of being made free indeed. Free from the sham of appearing as what we are not. Free to accept our true selves as God has created us. Free from the tension of trying to maintain a personality different from what we really are. Free from the imprisonment of a manner of behaving not as we feel we are but as others expect us to act.

A book written by Dr. Paul Tournier, The Meaning of Persons, is an excellent treatise on this subject.