They’re scary. Because they powerfully shape us. They influence the way we behave and relate. They hide our real self. And they trick others (even ourselves) into thinking we’re people we aren’t.
You know the ones I’m talking about, right? Like the “Everything’s Okay Mask” that hides what we’re really feeling. That disguises our hurts. Because we don’t want to burden people. Or feel weak. Or be vulnerable.
Or how about the “Mask of Beauty” that hides almost anything because of its powerful influence in a culture where beauty is upheld as an idol.
And then there’s the “Mask of Strength” that says I can do it all. It fools many, even the one who bears it. It hides weakness and humility, and encourages unhealthy independence.
I’ve also witnessed the “Confident Mask,” worn by those who fear the exposure of their insecurities. And the “I’ve Got it All Together” mask that covers over flaws and conceals the imperfect reality.
Or what about the “Christian Mask” that upholds a public morality, but hides the sinful truth.
We masquerade around in false identities because we don’t trust that people will like our truest self. And mostly because we don’t like our truest self.
We live and relate insecure and unconvinced of God’s creative goodness in us.
So we hide. And cover. Disguise. Pretend. And fool. But what we’re really doing with these sinful masks is scaring away honest conversations, humble confrontations, genuine acts of service, opportunities of growth, confessions that lead to healing, and hospitality, given and received.
These everyday masks hinder relationships, the very environment in which we live out our faith.
When we relate with anyone – be it a stranger, a spouse, a friend, a colleague, a child, someone we love, someone who irritates us – we have a choice: We can either be defensive or vulnerable, in the way we talk, love, and respond.
These masks we wear are part of our defense, the natural instinct of our flesh to protect ourselves. And the beginning of living by the spirit instead of the flesh is through believing the truths that set us free.
The first being this: We have been created in the image of God. Everyone has been created in the image of God. Created good….and for good. This truth leads to victory over our insecurities. For when we love the person God has created in us, and respect God’s creative design in others, we will choose vulnerability more often than defense.
It’s good to recognize here that there are people in our life where defense is the healthy choice because vulnerability would lead to harm or abuse or sin. But in our healthy relationships, and within the body of Christ, and in our encounters within the world, vulnerability is what will produce intimacy and reconciliation, genuine fellowship and authentic community.
When we humble ourselves and choose to be vulnerable with the people in our life, we will expand the way we are able to love others….and the way they are able to love us.
Vulnerability begins with the removing of masks. And with every mask we wear, there is truth we must be convinced of in order to take it off.
Maybe it’s that your community is safe. Or that God is safe. Or that you don’t have to be strong all the time. Or that your flaws don’t make people like you less. Or that your weakness might actually bring you blessing. Or that your sin isn’t unforgiveable. Or that you’re loveable just the way you are. Or that your burdens are okay to share.
And let these truths unveil us, though it’s frightening, I know! But when we live more fully as the people God created us to be, we will more likely live as environments of grace, a safe place for others to be real.