There are plenty of masks you can wear to hide. If you wear them long enough you will forget how to take them off. In fact they will feel so fused to your identity it becomes painful to peel them back and allow someone to see the real you.
Masks take different forms for different women. Some wear the mask of Perfection, always polished and smooth. Some wear the mask of Achievement, ever climbing from one rung to the next up the ladder. For others the mask is Humor or Hostility or Entertainer or Flirt. The nuances and variations are endless and one woman may wear several. After all, it takes a lot of coverage to hide deep wounds and fears. They have a tendency to seep out unless tucked away carefully under layers of protection.
In the past month, I have conversed with so many women who are hurting and struggling but simply cannot bear to pry the mask back to let anyone see the places they are ashamed of, the broken fragile pieces of their lives. And so they sit with smiles hiding loneliness and laughter masking tears. If I thought ripping the mask off myself would free them of it, I might be tempted to try, but the truth is a mask is simply a choice to guard yourself from others knowing the real you. There is no way for anyone to make another drop their defenses. It began long ago in a garden with some fig leaves, and has been going on ever since.
As I was ending a recent conversation with a young woman who was feeling very alone and ashamed, I reminded her the only way she would begin to heal was to be honest and stop avoiding her feelings. To allow me to ask her questions and to really answer them. “It’s hard,” she replied with tears she kept from spilling out by sheer will.
“It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.” said our Lord in the gospel of Matthew. He didn’t mean that any of us were healthy to begin with. Rather that only when we will acknowledge our sickness, and go ask for help- expose what is going on inside us- then we can find the healing we so desperately need.
Do you know that Jesus understands this tendency to try to hide also, to avoid being vulnerable and exposed? In His great love for us, He was willing to become completely known by people who would reject, abuse, abandon and eventually murder Him- all to make us secure. He became weak so we could become strong. He was exposed so we could be covered. This is the gospel- God in His love, coming down to trade places with us. This is very good news, because only when we know that God sees us fully and loves us completely can we find the strength to begin to open our hearts to others. They may not perfectly love the real you, but God does.
Do you know the safest people to take your mask off with? The ones who have already taken theirs off too. Look for people who are vulnerable and open about sin, feelings, past experiences and weakness. The ones who have already journeyed ahead through vulnerability into healing are the most equipped to gently sit with you as you begin the sentence, “I think I need some help…..”