TAKE OFF THE MASKS!

It’s time to take off the masks.

Halloween is over, but too many of us are still wearing masks.

One of my favorite poems is “Please Hear What I’m Not Saying.” Charles C. Finn nailed it when he said, “Don’t be fooled by the face I wear for I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me.”

 We all wear masks at times. We are afraid to be who we are. We are especially afraid to show on the outside what we feel on the inside – it’s called a “fear of intimacy.”

As much as we desire to be known, loved and accepted for who we are, most of us learned at an early age that, at times, such self-disclosure brings rejection and ridicule. So we play it safe – we hide behind “masks” that portray the image that all is “fine”, when that is the farthest thing from the truth.

Christians are possibly the best – or worst – mask-wearers.

Somewhere along the line we got the message that it is not okay – not “Christian” – to be angry, worried, depressed or to mess up. When someone asks how we are doing, we whip on the mask and reply, “Fine! How about you?” “Oh, fine.”

We are all fine…

Sometimes it is appropriate to give a one-word answer when someone inquires in passing how we are doing – we are just exchanging pleasantries. And sometimes, “Fine” really does describe in a nutshell how we are feeling.

Other times, we are hurting, confused, overwhelmed, and anxious, but we dare not take off our “happy” mask for fear of being judged.

I once lived in fear of being “found out.”

I had a full wardrobe of masks, but none of them showed any vulnerability. If anyone ever commented that I looked sad or down, I immediately threw out excuses, i.e. “I’m just tired. I didn’t get much sleep last night.” Heaven forbid that I should actually feel “down.” It didn’t fit with my expectations for a believer living the “victorious life.”

My thinking began to turn around when I attended a seminar presented by Jeff VanVonderen, author of Tired of Trying to Measure Up and Families Where Grace is in Place.  He talked about people with “shame-based identities” – when they screw up, they take it as an indictment of who they are, not just of what they did. Forgiveness is usually in short supply in their families of origin.

Shame-based identities lead to self-defeating behaviors such as addictions, codependency, eating disorders, etc, which, in turn, cause feelings of…shame. Shame does not want to be found out, so it hides. Our “I’m fine. You’re fine. We’re all fine” masks keep us from being real or asking for the help we need.

I flushed with shame at the seminar that day. I was a bobble-head most of the day as I nodded each time I identified with Jeff’s message.  The very next day I called a Christian counselor and scheduled an appointment. I walked into her office and said, “I need help.”

For the next six months, my counselor helped me identify and understand the issues that had kept me “stuck” for so long. A big part of the solution was admitting that I was human and prone to make mistakes. I needed the help of God and others to take off my “Christian mask” and allow others to see me as I was.

I learned to reprogram the lies I believed that kept me mired in shame. When I blew it, I learned to say to myself, “Only God does not make mistakes. I am human. I can take responsibility to correct this mistake.”

It may sound silly, but it really helped me to just be “me”. Today I am free to be me. I can honestly say, “What you see is what you get.”

How about you? Are you honestly showing on the outside, who you are on the inside –with at least one person you trust?  There is only one “you.” The world and the church need you.

With the help of God and others, you can be free to take off the mask and be who you are. It’s time.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Take a step towards emotional honesty today – share how you are really feeling with just one person you trust. Take off your mask and trust God with the outcome.

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Peggy Basham
    Nov 2, 2011

    I am nodding my head in agreement!

  2. Kathy Fortney
    Nov 6, 2011

    I too am booble-heading. That hits home. Thanks

  3. Rachel Laurn
    Nov 6, 2013

    Nice article. I took off my mask in 2006. I can breathe better without it. With it, I was suffocating…

  4. Dorothy Bonen
    Nov 6, 2013

    Wow, this sounds all to familiar to me. I too had to learn to be honest with my feelings. When I was working as a counselor I had two ceramic masks one happy, one sad, hanging on the wall in my office to remind me, and or others to identify feelings.

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