Paula Deen has been outed again. This time it’s literally a show-stopper.
Last year the queen of rich, sweet, buttery Southern cooking outed herself: she suffers from type 2 diabetes, which is linked to the very kinds of foods she showcased on her highly popular cooking shows. She took criticism at the time because her announcement came three years after she was diagnosed—and after continuing to tout her unhealthful comfort foods all the while.
But that pales in comparison to the current controversy.
It all began when Lisa Jackson, a former manager at a restaurant called Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in Savannah, Georgia, owned and operated by Deen and her brother Earl “Bubba” Hier, filed a 1.2 million lawsuit against Deen and Hier alleging racism, discrimination, and acts of violence.
In a recently leaked deposition, Deen admitted to using racially charged language, and to tolerating discriminatory behavior in her restaurants. The deposition went viral, and the criticism came pouring in. Deen quickly released two or three videos offering apologies. But that was not enough for the Food Network, which announced that it would not renew its contract with the celebrity chef for the three popular Paula Deen cooking shows that were airing on its network, including “Paula’s Best Dishes.” She has also lost endorsement deals, and contracts with several retailers that carry her products.
Amid the chaos of condemnation, there are also some more measured reactions to the Paula Deen racism scandal. However, though Deen still has ardent supporters, the damage is done. Her reputation is indelibly tarnished. She will never again be viewed in quite the same way by society.
That’s what happens when the inner self that we keep hidden away comes out into the open.
And our secrets will be revealed sooner or later.
When our secrets are shouted from the housetops
That, at least, is what Jesus says:
Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the ear behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops. (Luke 12:1–3)
Although some people think Jesus was talking about the time of the Last Judgment, for Paula Deen it is happening right now. Secrets she would have preferred to be kept within her family and within the walls of her family’s restaurants are now being broadcast to the world.
Of course, the media is full of people’s secrets being revealed:
- Politicians are outed on elitist and discriminatory statements that they made in private.
- Business executives are outed on predatory and illegal financial dealings.
- Televangelists are outed on extravagant spending and secret liaisons with prostitutes.
- Celebrities are outed on alcoholism, drug addictions, and extramarital affairs.
In a sense, for all of those public figures whose dark secrets have been revealed, the Last Judgment is now. They are each having their own personal Last Judgment in which they are called to account for their actions.
And yet, which one of us can honestly say that we have no deep, dark secrets that we would fear to have revealed to everyone who knows us, and to the public at large? None of us is perfect. We have all said and done things that we know we shouldn’t have, and have hurt others in the process. We all have desires and attitudes that are less than noble, and that if acted upon, would subject us to public shame, penalties, and reprisals.
The real issue is not whether we have destructive thoughts and urges, but whether we express them in our words and actions.
In fact, the very ability to think and feel things that we do not say and do is part of our structure as human beings.
The inner self and the outer self
To put a very complex aspect of our psychology very simply, we humans have both an inner self and an outer self.
These inner and outer selves are not what we think and feel vs. what we say and do. Rather:
- Our inner self is our real inner character, consisting of what we truly love and believe.
- Our outer self is a mask-like character that we create in our own minds and present to the world.
Both our inner self and our outer self are part of our mind or psyche. In other words, they are both part of our spirit. Our body simply says and does what our spirit tells it to.
Under most circumstances, this means that we say and do what our outer self tells us to. Yes, ultimately we are motivated by our inner self—by what we truly love and believe. But whenever we are in public, everything is filtered through our outer self, which is the socially acceptable persona that we put on whenever we think people may see us and hear us.
Here’s a simple example:
Let’s say you work as a cashier at a local grocery store. You see many people during the course of your shift, including people you know. Some of them you like, some you don’t. But no matter what you think of them, when it’s their turn in line you greet them with a smile and politely ask, “Did you find everything you needed?”
Inside of yourself, you might be thinking, “You stupid jerk! I hope you forgot what you came here for!” Buuuut, you kind of need this job, and you don’t want to get fired. So you suck it up, paste on that smile, and for the moment, you treat them as if they were your favorite person in the whole wide world. You never know when your manager might be watching!
That’s the difference between our inner self and our outer self. Our inner self is what we really think and feel. Our outer self is what we know we have to pretend to think and feel in order to get along in society.
Mind you, it’s not always a bad thing to speak and act in ways we don’t truly think and feel. In the case of the grocery store clerk, it is good practice to make ourselves treat people decently even when we don’t feel like it.
The hypocrisy factor
Saying and doing things we don’t truly think and feel does become a major problem, though, when we act all nice, caring, and wise in order to take advantage of others to serve our own selfishness and greed.
That’s known as “hypocrisy.”
There’s no hypocrisy in grocery store clerks treating customers with politeness and respect regardless of their true feelings toward them. Even clerks whose main motive is to make money at the job are still serving customers and taking care of their needs, not taking advantage of them for personal gain.
However, what if you’re working in a retail store and a customer asks about a product that you know is not very good. Do you tell them the truth about the product? Or, even though you know it will probably break after a few months of use, do you assure them that it is a good, sturdy product that will serve them for years?
If you deceive customers in order to get the sale, then there is hypocrisy involved.
Of course, knowingly selling customers shoddy products is a fairly mild form of hypocrisy. It’s wrong, but it’s not as wrong as, say, corrupt priests or psychiatrists gaining the confidence of people under their care so that they can take sexual advantage of them. In such cases, hypocrisy can destroy a victim’s entire life.
Paula Deen seems to be somewhere in the middle. Not admitting to diabetes and pretending that the rich, fatty food she served was really A-okay may not have destroyed people’s lives, but it probably did damage their health to some extent.
And Deen’s pretending to view all people equally while actually harboring racist attitudes has caused many people who loved her shows and her cooking to feel betrayed. The friendly, chatty woman they saw on the show did not match some of the prejudicial attitudes that lay concealed behind that warm and open exterior. For many, Paula Deen’s cooking now has a bad aftertaste.
The path to redemption
And yet, all is not lost. In fact, the periodic revelation of parts of our true inner self has its purpose under God’s Providence.
We often get so wrapped up in our outer self—in the false public persona that we present to others—that we start to fool even ourselves. We begin to think that we actually are the wonderful, wise, caring person that we present to others, when we are actually just using that mask of charming personality in order to achieve our own selfish ends, or to hide serious flaws in our character.
Then something comes along that rips off the false mask, and reveals the true person underneath.
When this happens, we may feel humiliated. We may wish we could just crawl under a rock and disappear. It is common for people whose masks have been ripped off to withdraw from society for a while.
Yet these experiences of public exposure of our true inner self are also an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.
What we had previously kept hidden both from others and from ourselves is now plain for everyone to see.
Yes, we could stubbornly close our eyes to these uncomfortable facts about ourselves. However, if instead we accept these revelations of our inner secrets, we have an opportunity to change and grow in ways that we could not when we were still deceiving others and ourselves.
The road ahead for Paula Deen . . . and for each of us
Paula Deen has had some uncomfortable facts about her inner self revealed in a highly public way. Though her quickly taped apologies are all well and good, the acid test will be what she does in the long run.
Will she recognize and admit to herself that she does, indeed, have prejudicial attitudes still ingrained in her, and that these attitudes are wrong? Will she confront these attitudes and do the work of changing them? If so, then this latest revelation of her inner self will have moved her forward on her spiritual journey.
Paula Deen is probably no better or worse than anyone else. We all have our flaws. We all have our faulty attitudes and our destructive desires, no matter how deeply we may keep them hidden.
In a way, when the secrets we have hidden are suddenly revealed, it is a gift. We no longer have to pretend to be something we are not. Now we can work on truly becoming the better person that we want to be, both inside and out.
Secrets revealed in this world . . . or in the next
Yes, in time, all of our secrets will be revealed. As Jesus said, everything we have whispered in someone’s ear behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops.
Even if it doesn’t happen in this world, it will happen in the spiritual world after we die.
When we first enter the spiritual world after we die, we look, speak, and act just as we did in the material world. In fact, as unbelievable as it may seem, we might not even realize we have died! That’s because everything is very much the same as it was while we were still living on earth.
But before long, our external masks start to melt away. We begin to lose the ability to say and do things outwardly that we do not really think and feel inwardly. By the time this second stage after death is complete, there is no difference between our inner self and our outer self. Whatever we really think, that’s exactly what we say. Whatever we really want, that’s exactly what we do—if we are able.
For an entertaining example of what it’s like not to be able to say anything we don’t actually think—in other words, not to be able to lie—watch the movie Liar, Liar (1997), starring Jim Carrey.
After we have been in the spiritual world for a while, we will experience what Carrey’s character did in Liar, Liar. But instead of being unable to lie for only twenty-four hours, it will be for the rest of eternity.
Not only for Paula Deen, but for all of us, the revelation of our inner secrets can be one of the greatest gifts of all, no matter how devastating it may be at the time. It gives us the opportunity to see our true selves clearly and honestly, and to correct what is wrong in ourselves while we are still living here on earth, and our character is still being formed.
If we do this thoroughly during our earthly lives, we will gradually bring our outer self into harmony with our best inner self. When we greet all of our customers with a smile and a friendly word, it will not be pretense; it will be what we truly feel toward them.
Then, when our time on this earth is over and we move on to the spiritual world where all secrets are revealed, we will have nothing to fear. We will simply move seamlessly into a world where all of the inner love and wisdom that we have grown into here on earth can be more fully expressed in our everyday, outward lives in the vast human community of heaven.
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