I’ve written quite a bit about hiding our true selves from others. I do it for several reasons. One of those reasons is how hiddenness prevents us from enjoying and getting close to each other.
A sinister thing about hiding is that you can do it in plain view of others. We can go to church every Sunday, join several godly-looking committees, put on a big fake smile and flashy clothes, look down on those who don’t do those things, and feel pretty darn good about ourselves. Others may envy us as we look like the “good Christian who has it all together”.
All the while, we have things just beneath the surface of our masks that look nothing like the show we are putting on in front of others. We may find ourselves denying that those things even exist. When we stumble over them, we sweep them back under the rug as soon as possible so we don’t get exposed.
For some of us, the mask doesn’t ever seem to slip. We’ve fashioned it in such a way that it fits snuggly against the face we want to keep hidden…a face we haven’t even seen ourselves in a very long time.
Let me drop the symbolism here for second. In short, none of us are as “well-put-together” as we often want to seem. We have pet sins that we just can’t seem to put down. We aren’t as “successful” as we wish we were. We aren’t the father, mother, son, daughter, or friend we had hoped to be. We have deep hurts that seem to persistently bleed through the bandages we keep throwing on top of them.
Ironically, while we disguise ourselves so that others do not see our faults, there is a tendency for us to look at others and pick them apart. In fact, the thicker our own masks are, the more we are tempted to do that to others. The slightest slip-up in another person’s life and we are ready to toss them aside…all the while using them as the source of some juicy gossip. While we laugh and feel accepted in those conversations, we are again fooled by masks around us. If the primary source for conversation is gossip, then authentic friendship is the furthest thing away from the conversation.
When we get home from a long day of putting on a show, we often continue to hide in different ways. Some of us withdraw to TV, some hobby we’ve picked up, or too much to drink. Some of us let all the frustration spill over with those we are closest to, so they do actually get something real from us. However, unfortunately it is a lot of misplaced anger that only serves as another layer of something to hide behind. Then there are those of us who slip on another mask as best we can and try to keep the charade going at home.
Is there no end to this madness? It’s nauseating when we take notice of what we are doing and what’s happening around us. Billboards blatantly lie to us about what we can expect if we just give them some of our hard-earned cash. The news tells us a warped, biased version of what’s really going on in the world. And local churches even get sucked into the phoniness with empty platitudes and the all-to-often-used response, “We’re doing just fine!”
Where can we go to find something real and authentic? More importantly, where can we BE real and authentic?
The answer is a hard one to swallow. We can start being real right where we are. It isn’t easy. It’s scary. What if we let others see who we really are and they don’t like it at all?! Is it even worth the risk? For many of us, the answer is still, “No, it’s not”. But for some of us, taking that risk is looking more and more inviting as we tire of the mask-wearing and phony lives that leave us feeling empty and cold.
While it’s scary to take off the masks we hold so dear, it’s also usually hard to figure out how to do it. They are often applied with something not unlike superglue. We don’t know ourselves after we’ve spent so much time covering up our true selves.
So, the question is posed. Who am I really? I need to know some sort of answer, at least a hint, in order to embrace and be my true self.
If I wanted to find out about a product of any kind, the best place to go would be the person who created that product. Who invented it? Reading about what goes into the product is not enough. Actually talking with the creator would serve to give us the full picture of what that product is and what it’s designed for. Actually knowing the creator would give us a sense of what went into the making of that product.
The same is with us. We need to seek our creator if we are to truly understand who we are. God formed us in our mothers’ wombs. He actually knew us long before that. We can read about the truths of who we are in Scripture, and that is good. However, reading is not enough. Simply having knowledge is not enough. We need a relationship with our creator in which He can walk with us and continually show us how He views us in order for us to let it all soak in. It will only be a reality we can live out in our lives once we have had experiences with Him that permeate every fiber of our being.
This may all sound a little kooky, or at least too over-simplified and/or over-spiritualized for those of us truly struggling with our masks and wanting freedom. Perhaps we must start with something tangible and right in front of us. Maybe we need to sit down with one person we trust and ask them to tell us what they see when they look at us. That person may be surprised by that question, so we may need to press them a little to be honest. We may need to share just a little about what we are pursuing. We may need to share our own observations of them. This isn’t a time for criticism and fake compliments, but for sharing real insight into what we see at the very core of each other. The realness in that little conversation might break the seal on the old mask we put into place long ago.
Humility (being real about who we really are) can start with the smallest step of faith you can imagine. Ask God for an opportunities to experience trusting Him and others with yourself. That’s a prayer He loves answering. We will miss some of those opportunities, no doubt. But the ones we embrace will make all the difference in the world.
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