The Mask We Wear – The Mask We Become
THE MASK WE WEAR – THE MASK WE BECOME
Having served as a pastor for a number of years in a mainline denomination I am well aware of the pressures, demands and dangers of the ministry. I think one of the greatest pitfalls ministers face is that or “mask wearing”. The demands or expectations that our parishioners, peers, denominational leaders or even we place upon ourselves can rob us, if we are not careful, or our authenticity and identity.
The “MASK” is defined as: “a covering for all or part of the face, worn to conceal one’s identity”. We wear them at Halloween, or other events and celebrations to disguise ourselves or to pretend we are something or someone else. Much of it is done in fun and is an enjoyable experience.
The sad truth is that many of us have worn a different type of “mask” in life … one that hides who we perceive or fear we are. We all at some time or another have been “mask wearers” … and some of us still are.
Someone once said: “The mask we wear disguises much more than the face underneath it, but it hides who we truly are inside and protects our soul from being tainted and torn in shreds by the harsh judgment of others.”*
There may be a number of reasons we find ourselves wearing a mask:
- TO HIDE: We wear the mask which we have created to “hide” what we don’t want others to see in our lives … Something embarrassing which we may be ashamed of.
- TO PRETEND: Sometimes we are not what we would hope to be … so we have designed this mask to give us a new identity … The new person which we long to be.
- A NEED FOR APPROVAL: Those of us who have been taught that “love” and “acceptance” are based upon “performance” have learned in life how to wear the masks which people hand to us so that we may win their love or acceptance.
- A DEEP SHAME: Maybe there is something in our lives …or … something about us that we find shameful or disgusting so we create this mask to give us a whole new identity … The person which we long to be or wish that we were.
- GAIN RECOGNITION: Like to “class clown” in school, some of us long so desperately to be seen or recognized so we wear this mask to create attention, cause laughter or demand fear and respect … all in a desperate attempt to be seen by others.
- FOR PROTECTION: Maybe somewhere is life we were deeply hurt and the wound is still so real that we have created this mask to protect us from any future harm … thus putting up a wall of protection which hinders transparency in our relationships … BUT … seems to keep us “safe”.
- MANIPULATION: Finally there are those who feel a tremendous need to control or manipulate other people. Usually due to deep insecurities this “mask” becomes their tool or weapon for survival giving them a sense of power and authority over others.
WHATEVER the reason for wearing the “mask” … this marvelous “cover” which seems to have brought us such pleasure … now has become the monster which controls out lives.
At first, like in the movie with Jim Carrey, the “mask” seems to accomplish what we deeply long for: acceptance … recognition … popularity … power … freedom. … and … much more. BUT we soon come to realize that we DEPEND UPON the mask to maintain what we have acquired. Now we are DRIVEN BY FEAR that our mask may “slip” or “crack” and people will see what lies beneath our mask. Now “mask wearing” becomes a “WORK OF LABOR” and CONTROLS our lives by REDEFINING who we are … which results in losing our true identity.
The sad reality is that while we work so hard wearing this maskto accomplish what we set out to do (hide – pretend – approval – etc.) IT IS STILL ALL ABOUT THE MASK … and … DEEP INSIDE those needs still go unmet. WHAT IS EVEN MORE TRAGIC is that many times we don’t even realize that this in happening.
It has been said: “Sometimes, we wear our mask for too long, forgetting that we even had it on. One day we will look at a mirror and realize that we don’t know the person who is staring back. We will learn that the mask we have worn for so long became our true face, and the one underneath that has been too afraid to be shown to the world has become our true disguise. That it was hidden for so long that we have even forgotten the person we once truly were, and we’ll be afraid to know who we once were ourselves.” *
A few years back I decided that IM DONE with “Mask Wearing”. I have chosen to walk in authenticity and genuineness of “who I am” and to be “ok” with that. Since then, I have experienced such a freedom and joy that cannot be explained. Oh there those each day who keep trying to hand me a mask to wear … and at times I am tempted to put it on. But I am quickly reminded of the “bondage” and “slavery” that comes with mask wearing and I quickly proclaim “NO … I do NOT need to wear that … for THAT is NOT who I am!”
David was a perfect example of one who was told how to act and what to wear when Saul gave him his armor to face the Giant of Goliath. Though tempted at first to wear that “mask”, David quickly proclaimed “No … this is not who I am”.
I trust that you have discovered the freedom and joy of walking in authenticity and true identity and are not in bondage to “mask wearing”. In doing so you will realize the true fulfillment of the ministry God has called you to.
By Bill Nichols