My mask

October 2, 2019

It wasn’t even that good of a movie. Sure it made Jim Carrey more famous than he already was, but it was too unrealistic in my opinion. That green mask and all the weird cartoonish animation. It just made it seem completely unbelievable. Although perhaps that was the point? The overarching idea that masks are not reality, and they portray something fake and misguided. Maybe they were geniuses all along, and I am just now figuring it out. 

Unfortunately, while the image they portray are not real at all, masks themselves are all too real. People put them on every day before heading out the door to work, hang out with friends, see their relatives, or go to school. Even sadder, a few people put them on before they roll over and say good morning or walk down the hall to wake up their kids. It seems like everybody’s got something to hide, and we’re all in the business of making sure we do the best job we can of it. 

I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t have a few in my closet that I take out from time to time too. Even though I consider myself one of the most open and transparent people I know, and I pride myself in being an “over-sharer” (maybe not something to be proud of),  there are still times when I put on a fake self, to keep others from understanding just who I really am. 

For instance, I’m not super fond of conflict. In fact I wish it would just go away, but I don’t have the guts to tell it to. But I can remember more than a few times as the coach of a men’s rec-league team where I decided getting into a shouting match or bumping chests with a guy 5 times my size (in the bicep region only), was the way to demonstrate my manliness to my teammates. Newsflash, it’s not. Luckily, I never got punched in the face. 

I’m also not great at telling people when they’ve let me down or hurt me. For some reason early on, I decided that faking like I was ok with things even when I wasn’t was the more mature or “enlightened” thing to do. Here’s the thing though, people keep letting me down, my feelings keep getting hurt, and instead of dealing with it like a mature and enlightened human being, I often find myself pretending to be ok, while bottling up huge amounts of anger and resentment. 

One more for good measure. Apparently, I make horrible first impressions. I was once told as much by a guy who later hired me to run an entire youth ministry for a large church in our area. I looked overwhelmed and unsure of myself he said. Like I had no idea what I was doing, and had no self confidence whatsoever. He said he didn’t think I’d make it three weeks, and that was when I was a volunteer. This is no surprise, seeing as my go-to move for life in trying and challenging situations has been humor and most specifically, self-deprecation. I can mock myself with the best of them. After all, everyones thinking it anyway, right? And it makes me appear humble and approachable, doesn’t it?

So somewhere in the midst of some other personal junk I was going through, I decided to combat this guy’s (and assumedly other’s) opinion of myself and tried false confidence on for size. Instead of leading with my inadequacies, I shot straight to my more redeeming and attractive qualities, and in the process became almost braggadocios. Not really better in any way, and not someone that people line up to follow either. 

The real me, it seems is somewhere in between. I know I’m good at stuff, but I want people to just notice it and be drawn to it, instead of me having to proclaim it from the rooftops. I want people to know they’ve hurt me, and apologize for it, but I don’t want to have to tell them they’ve done it. And if you see me fighting with someone, you can bet that I believe with ALL my heart that the cause is righteous, because otherwise I would already be in the nearest bathroom or dark corner waiting for the hubbub to die down. 

I put on my masks to cover what I feel like are my failings. I’m betting you do too. Your’s might not look like mine, but they make you feel like hiding just the same. Maybe you drink too much to cover up not knowing how to really connect with people. Perhaps you drive something you can’t afford to let people know that you belong. Maybe you take great family or couple shots and litter them all over instagram and facebook, but in reality your marriage is hurting and your kids are struggling. You might even be showing up in church or your small group with a smile on your face and your Bible in your hand, but inside you don’t know what you believe or why you’re there in the first place. 

Here’s the thing though. The issues I just listed above, aren’t REALLY failings. They’re realities. They don’t need to be covered up – they need to be worked on. And so we have a choice to make. We can keep putting on the masks, in an attempt to cover things up (which really only lasts so long), or we can embrace the fact that they are true about us, be open and transparent with people we trust and admire, and begin the long and arduous, but necessary task of trying to change them. My Bible tells me, that with the help of others, and the miraculous work of God’s Holy Spirit, you and I can ‘renew our minds,’ ‘change our hearts,’ and become ‘new creations.’ Those are promises I cling to, and good reasons to put the masks back in the closet, or better yet, the garbage can. 

Masks seem easy. Just put something on to cover-up what’s real, and no one will be the wiser. It’s just that they won’t and don’t work forever. Eventually someone or something will rip them off, and you’ll be left standing there, exposed, in the same place or worse than if you had never put them on in the first place. Even Jim Carrey took his off in the end, and his came with special powers. So my advice, my plan for myself, is to take them off, and find a way to be honest with yourself and those around you. Fill your life with people who help you grow and people who like the look of you now. Trust me, it’ll make your life better and even easier in the long run. And just think, you won’t have to spend nearly as much time in the morning picking out what to wear. 

More about Aaron

    1. Profound thoughts from a person with so many masks. Maybe writing is a way to break down your masks. 😬

    1. Aaron, you’re so great with articulating feelings into words. You’ve been one strong cookie since you were little – someone everyone could count on. Crazy that even you would struggle with the masks! Thanks for putting how all of us feel down on paper.

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