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We all wear masks in life—I don’t mean masks for a pandemic, but masks to hide ourselves in order to protect us from judgment or rejection. As a kid, I hid a lot. I tried so hard to fit in with the others, but I was decidedly not cool. No amount of trendy makeup or fashionable dresses could hide the fact that femininity eluded me. Hiding myself meant playing a small game, and it wasn’t a fun game. As a result, I wasn’t a party to be around. My lack of authenticity kept people at arm’s length. It’s only when I began to embrace who I really was—the honest, fraught, vulnerable, and deeply human person—that I began truly experiencing life. As I practiced sharing my authentic self with others, I noticed people sharing more of themselves with me. If I shared my real self, others would share their real selves with me. And in this process, life around me became . . . well . . . more alive.

Before you think, values, really? I know, it’s a word everyone uses (some even for political purposes), and yet it’s clear not everyone has the same definition. Conservative Christians might lose their minds if they discovered I live by values. So, what are they? Traditions? Principles? Maybe both. For me, they’re what comes from living from a place of deep conviction. Some might call them “faith” values. For me, they are simply anchors: they hold me to what’s true.

I kind of think of values as a code you live by—a basic framework of principles that anchor you to what’s true and important. You’ve heard of the Guy Code, right? (If not, look it up on Urban Dictionary.) The Guy Code consists of rules like, Don’t date your friends’ sisters or When your buddy’s girlfriend asks where he is, the only acceptable answer is “I have no idea.” Or, the Girl Code: Don’t date your friend’s ex without asking permission. You get the idea. Pretty dumb rules, but they represent basic guiding principles. Don’t think of this book as a Girl Code or even an Ann Code, but as a way to understand your own true ground, your God Code, with these anchors as a possible starting point. Each chapter highlights a different code, a way to live that can help bring us closer to God. Whatever you call your own set of values, I hope this book helps you start to consider making a list, maybe even drawing it up on your own whiteboard.

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During the Sundays of Lent, we will be running excerpts from Ann Kansfield’s Be the Brave One.

Reprinted with permission from Be the Brave One: Living Your Spiritual Values Out Loud and Other Life Lessons by Ann Kansfield copyright © 2021 Broadleaf Books. 

Mask Photo by Rach Teo on Unsplash

Ann Kansfield

Ann Kansfield was voted the inauguralNew York TimesNew Yorker of the Year and is the first female and openly gay FDNY chaplain. A graduate of Columbia University, Kansfield followed the Ivy League crowd to Wall Street until 9/11 happened and she realized she wanted more from life. In addition to her FDNY chaplaincy, she serves as co-pastor of the Greenpoint Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York, with her wife, Rev. Jennifer Aull. 

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