A room decorated in an African theme, got me thinking about masks. Not literal masks mind you, but the more subtle, psychological masks we wear. Then I came across this poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
It sure captures the reality of the issue, doesn’t it?
I believe that everyone wears a mask at some time or another and they do so for various reasons. Some don masks for devious purposes and leave their victims to fight their way out of the aftermath. Others wear masks for much more complex personal reasons.
Our reasons may include lack of confidence, self-preservation, and the need for acceptance. However, these reasons are often fueled by fear, guilt, confusion about who we really are and a true or false sense of some inadequacy.
Hiding behind the masks we wear, not only prevents others from knowing who we are, but sadly over time, we ourselves begin to lose touch with who we are. Eventually we assimilate the role we play with our masks on. We slip into a life of pretense that camouflages what is real about us, our ideals and our dreams.
Who wants to live a life of pretense? Do you? Wouldn’t it be far more liberating and joyful to live honestly?
I’ve worn masks. My lack of self-confidence dictated that I wear a self-assured mask even though I was falling to pieces on the inside. Years of fearing ridicule and rejection helped me to craft a mask that portrayed me as a person who was brave, a risk-taker, who was unfazed by negative responses to her ideas and opinions. The upright and confident stride people saw was not me. Inside, I was slouching, feeling dejected, tired, afraid and overwhelmed. I only realized that I was wearing mask when someone commented on my “obvious” confidence.
That was a turning point for me. A defining moment if you will. The questions raged, “Who am I really?” “Do I want to be the person other people see?” “How do I move from this place of insecurity, fear and confusion, to where I would like to be, without compromising who I really am?” “Could I learn to not buckle under the negativity that people might spew at me?
Is it possible to pursue and live my dreams without apology?”
God who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, (Ephesians 3:20a) guided me through the maze of questions. Then He led me through to the other side, free of my fears and without the masks. Now, I walk confident in the knowledge that God made me what and who I am. And, on that basis I am free to be myself without fear and without apology. When you see me walking upright and confident, know that I am leaning on Him and He is supporting me.
What about you? What masks do you wear? Under what circumstances do you pull them out and put them on? More importantly, why do you wear them? Are you willing to learn the truth that lurks behind your masks? Are you ready to deal with them so that you can be your true self, confident and brave?
Straighten out your spiritual beliefs.
Who you are, what you do and want to do must have its foundation in your spiritual beliefs to survive in the world. Everything falls apart when your life is not aligned with your beliefs. If you have lost your way, ask God to find you and lead you back home. There you will find your true identity and discover your purpose as you hold the truths of your faith as your beacon in every situation.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in your faith; be men (women) of courage; be strong.”
~ 1 Corinthians 16:13.
Strive for authenticity in every area your life.
One of the realities of life is that people’s opinion of you will not always be positive. That is never a reason to misrepresent yourself at home or at work. Let everyone else say, believe and do as they please. You might feel like a tiny rowboat on the sea of life. The grand ocean liners may even rock your little boat as they pass by, close, towering and loud. Nevertheless, maintain your hold on being authentic in every circumstance even when others try to intimidate or entice you.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
You may find this a daunting exercise, as I did. But hiding behind a mask is no way to live. Is it? Discard your masks, imbibe your mind with your beliefs and clothe your life with the practice of authenticity.
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