Most of us love a good superhero movie, but one of the things most of them have in common is the hero wears a mask (or, in Superman’s case, a ridiculously easy to see through disguise when he’s not in tights). It’s about protection of their identity in most cases, so people can’t get to those the hero cares about and so control the hero through them. In some cases, it might be about humility, so that the hero can take off the mask and costume and go about his or her day without the world thanking them at every step.
We wear masks, too. Ours, however, our worn out of personal fear that our true selves are not worth knowing, not worth spending time with. That we’re somehow not good enough.
Take a common situation, such as meeting someone new. You know the drill: you shake hands, offer a smile, give your name and they give theirs. You might ask each other what you do for a living or why that person happens to be where you are. Light, surface-level questions. Nothing too personal offered or asked. Why?
Part of it is because social decorum dictates that initial meetings are best left impersonal, but that decorum comes from the underlying issue: that we don’t want to let people close to us that easily. Trust is not readily given; in many cases, it’s not even readily accepted. You don’t know the person you’re meeting, so you don’t give them anything they can use to hurt you.
Not only that, you either offer nothing bad about yourself or you offer only bad about yourself, the former if you want them to like you and the latter if you want attention or just want the other person to not hurt you. With either, the result is that the person you’re meeting doesn’t have a true picture of you, as nobody is either all good or all bad. You give them a caricature, that mask you’re wearing that exaggerates some of your features while hiding your true self.
For me, my mask has several parts. One part is stoicism. I laugh easily enough and my laugh, I’m told, is musical and contagious, but I don’t just smile often. I don’t show much of any emotion. I don’t talk all that much, either. Another part is that I want to be the smartest guy in the room. When I’m around new people, I look for ways to do math in my head for them so they’ll think I’m brilliant. Once that’s established, I usually let it go, but I want that to be part of their image of me. There are more parts to my mask, but there are two important things about my little facade:
1. My mask is not who I currently am. I don’t advertise openly that I have insecurities still. I have far fewer than when I wrote the book on having confidence, but some are still lingering. I didn’t know how many until I got married, but thankfully, both God and my wife are working on me to erase those.
2. More importantly, my mask is not who God wants me to be. He wants me to be His son, His adopted heir, more powerful and important than if I was a conquering general or the world’s richest man. No insecurities, no fear of failure, no fear of anything but God.
He wants that for you, too. Deep down, you want it for yourself. It’s why you keep searching for things that will make you feel valuable, so you can make yourself a little better in the hopes of one day dropping the mask and letting the world see you as you really are. You are good enough to do that now with Christ’s image of you.
I want to challenge both you and myself this week to drop our masks, even if only for a few minutes at a time. Tell yourself that you are God’s child and that no opinion of anyone else on this planet matters. Tell yourself that no failure on your part affects your value. And then, do whatever God wants you to do. Cast all your hopes for value and love on Him and work to show yourself approved to Him, a workman that needs not be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). I’d love to hear your stories of how this went. I’ll try to remember to post mine.