It’s early November 1984 in Abilene, Texas. I’m 7 years old and just coming down from the excitement that Halloween dished out just days before. I had a store-bought costume, straight from the aisles of K-Mart. It was a princess of some sort. The long white polyester dress came with a plastic white mask and accompanying elastic headband to keep it in place. It was the face of a princess with blonde hair and a crown, and hollowed out eyes and nostril holes for breathability and trick-or-treating ease.
And of course it was flame retardant because it was the early 80’s and we had evolved.
I continued to play with the costume several days after Halloween was over. One of my favorite activities was to torment my 2 year old sister with the mask, which she found terrifying. During one particularly rousing round of Be a Jerk to Your Baby Sister, my mom had clearly had enough of my shenanigans and my little sister’s gut wrenching screams. Enough warnings were doled out and, subsequently ignored, that enough was finally enough. My mom marched into the living room where my sister and I were “playing”. She had scissors in one hand, and with the other hand, took the mask away from me and instantly cut it into pieces.
I was horrified to say the least. But looking back on the incident now, as a mother of two daughters of my own, I give my mom incredible parenting props. I’m in awe of that single-handed move. She wasn’t afraid to follow through with a warning after it had gone repeatedly ignored. She meant what she said and said what she meant. You can bet your life I never tortured my sister with a mask again. Mom was from the We Don’t Play Around generation, and I was no special case. My sister and I never doubted we were loved, but my parents weren’t above calling us out on our nonsense when necessary.
Looking back, taking away that mask was an act of grace. It showed me that once that mask began to cause pain or heartache, it must be swiftly removed. She wasn’t going to allow the mask to inflict any more drama in our lives. She took the mask away to prevent me from imposing any further hurt on myself or those I loved.
Decades later, I have come to discover that masks continue to be a source of hurt for many of us. Grown up masks are much more difficult to get rid of. We have them stashed away, waiting to put them on when the opportunity arises.
We wear masks when we find ourselves trying to be who we think we should be. Or to try and be someone we aren’t to avoid potential criticism or correction.
And this can sometimes be quite a painful process. Looking at ourselves from the outside-in tends to bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings and hurtful reality.
What Mask am I Wearing Today?
I sat down to write this piece, and it caused me to have to really step back and look at myself. What mask am I wearing today?
Am I masking my pride by being defensive all the time? I often struggle with being the one at fault in a situation. I don’t like to mess up or make mistakes. But what is that teaching my children about humbly accepting responsibility? What message does that send to my husband when we have a disagreement? Swallowing my pride and taking that mask off reveals that I’m simply human. And that’s ok.
Am I masking how I’m truly feeling by not sharing my thoughts with others to avoid hurt feelings, yet building resentment along the way because they don’t understand my perspective? As a lifelong people pleaser, I tend to hide behind the image of what I think others want to see. Remembering that my voice matters is just another step in my journey.
Am I masking my insecurities by trying to be perfect, and as a result, take out frustration on those around me when I can’t quite get to where I think I should be? I don’t have to do this anymore. I know that I am made perfect in Christ. We all are. Jesus tell us, “’My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Today I’m asking God to take away anything that may be hiding who He made me to be. The masks of Pride. Envy. Jealousy. Bitterness. I’m asking Him to take away the masks that cause so much discomfort. To destroy them and cut them up into pieces in the ultimate act of mercy and grace. Without those masks, I can freely be who He created me to be. No pretending. No disguises.
He created us exactly as we are. With an exact purpose. We don’t need to hide behind something we’re not. Take off the mask that’s suffocating you. Let yourself breathe. Honor yourself by going out into the world each day, exactly who you are.
No costume required.