Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wearing a Mask to Hide or Express Who You Are

One of the topics that I love reading and writing about is identity.  From the time our parents learn if we are male or female, when we are given a name, when our personalities begin to emerge during toddlerhood, we are on a lifelong discovery of who we are.  For many, this is linked to one's job--whether one likes the job or not.  For Christians, our identity is in Christ (whatever that may mean to each individual Christian).  We are complex individuals, shaped by DNA and upbringing, coming into relationship (friendships, working relationships, familial relationships, marriages, etc.) with other complex individuals, and trying to somehow live and work and love in community.

We spend time trying to figure out who we are:  through Myer's Briggs, through spiritual gift assessments, through birthdays and times.  We often fumble along, trying to figure it out for ourselves so that we can be secure in who we are.   We have many lifelong decisions to make at young ages:  in our late teens, we need to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives so we can declare a major in college.  In our twenties, we need to figure out what we want in a partner so that we can get married and start a family.  In our thirties we are in the middle of raising children and helping them discern who they are.  [I can't go any further than that; I have no experience yet past thirties].

It would seem as if the majority of people either have themselves all figured out or don't think about it once they pass these milestones.  I know I am so busy with my two boys that it is difficult sometimes to give myself a second thought.  But it is precisely for this reason (being home full time with my boys now) that I am spending so much time wondering who and what I am--because I know that I am more than a mom.

It is easy to get comfortable in who we are or who we think we are or who we are expected to be.  When faced with examining ourselves, or changing, even in the smallest of ways, it can be a struggle not only because of whatever inner turmoil it brings us, but because we also fear the reactions of other people, whether they are close to us or not.

I let my 4 1/2 year old bring quiet toys that can fit in my purse to church.  One day, he decided to bring his superhero mask.  As my husband and I stood there singing during the opening song, I glanced down at my son and he had already put it on.  He was sitting there, in the seat, just looking around, oblivious to the fact that wearing a mask in church is out of place.

We can look at this in two ways.

We can look at it in the sense that we wear a mask to hide our true identity.  When we are content with small talk and surface relationships, we are not allowing ourselves to fully express what is in our hearts.  We use our masks to hide from other people, to keep them at a distance, to keep ourselves feeling safe.  We wear our masks to hide who we are.

If this is you, in what ways can you strip off your mask to fully be yourself?  

We can look at it in the sense that we can be different from everyone around us and not let it phase us.  My son had no concerns that he may have looked silly or that nobody else was wearing a mask. He is not old enough to understand conformity and is content in who he wants to be.  From this, we can learn to wear parts of our identity that may be different from the norm and that people may not understand, but we can be true to who we are and not worry about what others think of us.  We wear our masks to express who we are.

If this is you, in what ways can you learn to wear your mask without worrying about being laughed at?  What part of your identity needs to be expressed?

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