One of Paul’s objectives for the Philippians was that they be sincere in the application of their love and knowledge. Sincerity is something we all treasure in others, but we tend to tolerate its absence in our own lives. We don’t mean it maliciously, but we often put on masks to prevent those around us from seeing the real us or our real feelings.
One Trunk or Treat night I wanted to dress up in a different way than previous years and help entertain all the kids. What I chose was unlike anything I had ever worn before. It was engineering marvel with an electric fan inside, space-technology fiber outside, and a power pack cleverly suspended to one side. Once inflated, the costume made me look like a giant turkey being ridden by a boy with short legs. It was great to see the smiles and hear the laughs even though there were some cruel comments made by less-sophisticated onlookers. I was the same person with or without the costume, but its presentation of who I was made people respond to me in a very different fashion than they normally do.
I think we often put on costumes, or masks, to face the challenges of the day, hoping to elicit a particular response from those we meet. We put on an I’m spiritual mask, an I’m happy mask, an I’m your friend mask, an I care mask, or a Don’t Worry About Me mask. If we become accustomed to wearing a mask, we may not only forget to take it off, we may also forget who we really are. It is easy to make the mistake of defining ourselves according to our masks – especially if it is one that everybody likes. We can wear it so often, and for so long, that when we do finally take it off, no one recognizes us.
The Bible exhorts us to be real with one another. None of us are perfect and we all know it, so why do we insist on wearing costumes of perfection? James admonishes us to confess our faults one to another so that we can pray for each others’ restoration and healing. Most of us take off our masks when we feel it is safe to do so. Loving and being loved is what makes it safe. Knowing that our brother or sister in Christ will view us with respect and acceptance encourages us to remove the mask.
Do people feel comfortable being who they really are in your presence? Some people will hold up a façade around you no matter what you do, but you should strive to communicate such love and acceptance to your friends and family that they feel safe to be real, to talk about their real thoughts, their real feelings, and their real fears. Maybe you could lead the way by removing your own mask.
Masks can be fun, and they can even be an effective way to cope with an uncomfortable situation. Long term use, however, will create an identity crisis and a façade that will eventually prove unfulfilling to maintain. God loves us just as we are and He want us to love one another in the same way. What a wonderfully powerful assembly we could be if we dealt openly, honestly, sympathetically and authentically first with ourselves and then with one another!