The result of the backlash was that the superheroes began to shirk the limelight and fade from view. The Incredibles joined the government’s Superhero Relocation Program. They were placed in soul-deadening jobs and moved to a suburban community where they attempted to blend in with their neighbors. Most of all they tried to hide any hint that there might be something different about them. In the end Mr. Incredible couldn’t take it and began to surreptitiously perform acts of heroism, trying to hide his activity from everyone, including his family. He was discovered and problems burst into the life of the family, threatening to tear them apart. Only as the family pulled together and once again began using their superpowers were they able to save the situation.
Why would I be discussing a movie aimed at kids that was released years ago? I came across a comment by Bob Goff, founder of Restore International. He said a saying he keeps close to his heart is “be secretly incredible.” Whether the writers of The Incredibles were influenced by Ayn Rand I don’t know, and I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter. But the movie’s plot came to mind when I encountered that little saying. In the movie at one point Bob Parr tried to be secretly incredible. He tried to do incredible things and keep others from knowing about it. That didn’t work out because he was trying to hide something. His attempt, I think, is the opposite of the intent of the saying, “be secretly incredible.” What controlled his actions was what other people could see. The point of this little saying is to do something regardless of whether people see or not.
Be secretly incredible. Two concepts control the impact of that saying. The first is “secretly.” Every day of our lives we have many moments that involve small actions and thoughts that no one but ourselves likely will see or know about. So much of our lives are known only to ourselves and God. Or they may be moments that are visible to others but will not be noticed by them because they are too small or seemingly insignificant. I think of the attitude I bring to mundane chores that are of little or no interest to anyone else. Will I do them with full attention and enthusiasm, or will I do them in a haphazard or begrudging way? Will I do them to the very best of my ability, or will I merely do the minimum necessary to just get them over with? What will be my attitude toward people I encounter during the day? Will it be judging, resentful, critical, angry, annoyed or impatient, or will it be full of grace, generosity, kindness, patience and love? When God prompts me to go out of my way to do something thoughtful or kind for another person will I respond and act on that prompting, or will I be so preoccupied with myself and my own agenda that I just don’t seem to get around to doing that kind or thoughtful thing? No one else can know about those promptings, once again, it is between me and God. It is a secret thing.
The other controlling concept in “be secretly incredible” is “incredible.” The dictionary defines the word as “so extraordinary as to seem impossible.” Wow. When I think of being so “extraordinary as to seem impossible” in my attitudes and in the way I carry out even the little unnoticed tasks of my life, I find myself drawn to that idea. I want to be incredible like that. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else ever sees or knows. I want to know that I’m being incredible in the way I do my work, love my wife, love my family, interact with the people I encounter, serve my God. In fact, I believe God wants me to be “secretly incredible.” Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Work at it with all your heart. Sounds like being incredible, whatever you do. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Ephesians 6:5 in The Message “Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily.” The next verse in the New American Standard translation tells us to not just do “eye service” or be “man pleasers.” It all sounds like being secretly incredible to me.
Typically we spend more time and emotional energy on our public persona than we do on our inner world. However, at the end of the day, true goodness is not merely an act, but a quality that is true of us whether anyone else sees or not. I don’t know that I could honestly describe myself as ever having done anything in a way that it is so “extraordinary as to seem impossible.” But I love the challenge of being extraordinary whether anyone ever sees it or not.