What Is a Hidden Agenda and Why Is It Hidden?

An “agenda” is a plan designed to accomplish, change, fix, destroy, remedy, reward, punish, promote, or hinder. In other words, an agenda is what we do to get from where we are to where we want to be—from here to there. Further, a hidden agenda is either hidden intentionally to accomplish what we desire, or hidden unintentionally because we don’t even know we have an agenda in the first place.

What Are Masks and Why Do We Wear Them?

Masks are designed to hide, conceal, or disguise the reality behind them. In other words, the masks are created to further an agenda. Like any agenda, the masks are sometimes intentional, but more often than not, the wearers are unaware of their masks.

Someone has said that the definition of “diplomacy” is saying “Nice dog . . . nice dog” until you get a stick. The “nice dog” part is the mask.

Christians are masters at hidden agendas and masks. Depending on your definition of the Christian faith, a mask may seem necessary. The church, properly defined, is a hospital, among other things. When people join the church, they have made a public statement that they are needy, sinful, and desperate. And the Bible teaches that while we generally do get better, the need, sin, and desperation are ongoing realities.

Depending on your definition of the Christian faith, a mask may seem necessary

The problem occurs when church people redefine the church as a gathering of “fixed” people who are good, together, and better than the cretins who aren’t in the church. Because that is not the biblical reality, those who define the church that way must create an “image” of what is not the reality. That “image” is the mask. If we wear the mask long enough, we begin to think that the mask is the reality.

And taking off our masks can be quite dangerous.

There are a great variety of masks—religious masks, power masks, protective masks, professional masks, and political masks. Some are designed to promote a political agenda or to hide fear. Other masks are designed to create fear. Some masks garner power or money. Some masks are created to solicit from others compassion and mercy, or to fake compassion and mercy. There are “coping” masks that enable us to function. And of course there are piles of religious masks that fake a walk with God . . . not the reality. The list goes on and on.

Why are we so afraid that people will discover our agendas and look behind our masks?

Because we are ashamed.

There are, I’m told, four great adult fears: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of punishment, and fear of shame. We wear masks because of one form or another of those fears.

We’re afraid of taking off the masks not just because of what’s under them, but because we instinctively know that our masks have become so much a part of us that to exorcise them would go to the core of who we are. That scares the spit out of us.

Where did we learn to create hidden agendas and to wear masks?

It’s normal, natural, and quite scary. It is as old as mankind and goes back to a man by the name of Adam who wore the first mask when he “covered himself” with fig leaves. You remember the incident. It’s in the Bible (Genesis 3) where Adam’s disobedience led to awareness, his awareness led to shame, and his shame led to the fig leaf mask. When God showed up, he called out to Adam, “Where are you?” Adam hid . . . and we’ve been hiding ever since.

You’re bent. I’m bent. The world is bent. And so we hide.

Once we start to understand the nature of hidden agendas and the masks we wear to cover them, we sometimes begin to think that if there were a pristine goodness, purity, and unselfishness in us, the “true self” would be that. It simply isn’t true. More than that, the process of getting to the “true you” isn’t pleasant, because the “true you” is often no better than the “false you.” Sometimes it is far worse.

Then why even bother to get rid of the masks or to reveal the agendas in the first place?

There is so much more to life than hiding, pretending, and never being loved. There’s also the horrible loneliness of shame, and it’s killing us. In fact, that’s what the Christian faith is all about—sinful, lonely, and needy people meeting and loving other sinful, lonely, and needy people. And when we do so, it changes the narrative . . . and thus changes the world.

Adapted from Steve’s book, Hidden Agendas: Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart.