I host a Bible study in my home that meets twice a month during the school year. It is a wonderful gathering of some very amazing women. We tend to work through various books typically written by women authors whose writing helps us not only in our understanding of scripture but also how we do life in the here and now. Which as we all know can be challenging even in the best of times. Part of the challenge is to live authentically. Authenticity can be hard even though it is what we desire in everyone else. Knowing someone is being genuine with us allows us to build trust with one another. But being authentic also means being vulnerable and that is something none of us wants to be with anyone. That level of trust in someone is deep. That level of trust comes with knowing the other person will not betray you under any circumstances. They will never share a confidence, they would never consider throwing you under the bus, and they would always have your back.
Within our friendships, we have friends, we have good friends, we have acquaintances, we have childhood friends (if we are fortunate), we have best friends, we even have heart friends, (those who even when we don’t see them for a very long time, we are able to pick right up where we left as if no time has gone by at all.) But very few of us have what I would like to call intimate friends. These are the people who know us. They get us. They see us with our masks off and still like us. These are the people who you know it is safe to be vulnerable. Many of us don’t even have this kind of friendship. Why is that you may ask: because we refuse to take off our masks.
We don’t have just one mask we wear. We hide behind several different ones we use depending on who we are with or where we are. Going to a PTA/PTO meeting? We put on the perfect mom mask. You know the one, where we let people think we have it all together and we never raise our voices or spank our children and our house is always perfectly clean and dinner is a home cooked meal from scratch, perfectly prepared on the table every night. Going on a girl’s night out? We put on the happy go lucky everything is wonderful and I am married to the perfect spouse mask. Going to the in-laws? Maybe I won’t go there. How about your church mask? It shows the perfect family, all smiles, and we are just so blest. Never mind the fact that you were all fighting in the car as you pulled into the church parking lot. I am sure you can think of other masks we all wear at one time or another.
Now, not all the masks we wear are bad. Sometimes we need to cover up what we are feeling in order to spare someone else’s feelings. I call these my poker faces. The trick is to be discerning about when to wear these particular masks because we really don’t want to become comfortable wearing any mask. Masks only cover up who we really are, who God created us to be in this world. God has given each of us many gifts and talents to use for God’s Kingdom. Wearing a mask keeps us from being who we really are and consequently reaching who God needs us to reach.
The other problem with wearing a mask that is they cover over what we are really feeling or going through so well they become formed to our faces and peeling them off can be difficult and even painful. This is a break-through conclusion we arrived at last night during our Bible study. (Which is why my post is about masks because I felt this was important to share) This insight came from our facilitator and I am grateful for her leadership within our group. Wearing a mask is not unlike telling someone you are fine when you are asked “How are you doing?” Even on days when you are not “fine.”
So in the spirit of authenticity, I am generally doing very well. I have a good life and always try to choose happy. But my life is not perfect and there are days when I am nothing short of a hot mess. That is when I arrange a day at home and listen to heavy metal music. (No Joke) I also tend to either clean and purge or watch old movies.
So…here’s to burning our masks in order to live a life of authenticity. Because here’s the thing, and it is THE thing: God loves you just as God created you – without a mask.
If you are interested the book we are currently reading as part of our Bible study group is called Broken and Blessed by Jessica LaGrone. It is available on Amazon.
I also highly recommend any books by Brene Brown if you are looking for help in living an authentic life and willing to be vulnerable in your relationships.