Love and Vulnerability: Masks

“…We refuse to wear masks and play games…”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭MSG‬‬

As discussed in the previous post, being able to love sometimes requires us to be spiritually naked with one another, to reveal ourselves to one another so we can be loved for who we truly are. But that’s not what we always do.

What’s your mask

I don’t know about you, but I wear a lot of different masks.

Not real masks mind you. But masks that allow me to hide who I really am from others. They allow me to present an image to the world that paints me favourable light. Whether it’s a smile when I feel sad, confidence when I feel anxious, or righteousness when I do wrong, I have at various times worn all these masks.

Billy Joel called them the faces of the stranger. It’s a song all about wearing different faces and how they make us feel good. We all do it. Masks are convenient because they allow us to hide inconvenient truths from others. I know this drum has been beaten to death, but anyone who has social media does this. They cultivate their lives to project a certain image to others. It’s the imagined self, the way we would most like to be seen by others. But it’s not just how others see you. The mask can sometimes change how you see yourself.

Hypocrisy

In Matthew 23 Jesus really takes the Pharisees to task. They were the religious establishment, the people who were venerated above all others for their holiness. But Jesus saw that for a lot of them it was a mask; they had the veneer of being righteous, but it was all for show. The Pharisees hated him for it, because they couldn’t not separate themselves from the mask and see themselves for who they truly were.

Our masks can make us like that a little bit. We can wear them for so long we can trick ourselves into believing everything is ok, when in reality it’s not. They make us hypocritical which in the Greek means ‘play-acting’. It’s a performance of whatever the mask is meant to convey, whether success, love or happiness. And in some ways, that might be necessary, a sort of fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to love and happiness.

The problem with this is where love enters the mix. If you wear masks, people may fall in love with the mask and not the real you. Think of all the Instagram celebrities that people love. They are loving an approximation of a person who is by definition not real. This is a problem for both sides of the relationship/friendship; the bond is based on nothing concrete so might fall apart if exposed. An in some sense we may realise this and tie the mask even tighter to our face so it never slips. But this means that people will never be able to love the real you because they have never met them.

The façade cracks

I got really good at wearing masks.

A lot of this was for basic survival. If I looked like I was ok, then people wouldn’t probe. We are all good at assuming people are ok even when they’re not. And that is part of the problem with masks is that hey become toxic the more they are used. We get so used to wearing them, that we cannot see when we might actually need help.

This has been my situation for a while. Protecting others from my reality as much as protecting myself from the same became second nature. But once I allowed the façade to crack I was able to actually get help from others and let them see the real me. This is why I think my previous post is so connected to this one; being spiritually naked and vulnerable with each other relies on us taking off the mask.

And this has to be an active choice on your part. Because sooner or later, the mask will slip from your face, and like it or not, people will see the real you. It happened to me once; my mask slipped and a friend saw the real ugly truth and it changed our friendship. Because I hadn’t really opened that part of myself, it was a nasty shock for them.

So, choose to take of the mask. It will be painful, but I promise it will be worth it, as the friends that stick around will love you for the real you, and not some fake version.