Superheroes work hard to keep their masks on securely, except for Superman. He wears a pair of glasses and an unassuming personality as his disguise. Recently we’ve all worn masks to prevent infections, and soon Halloween masks will be flying off the shelves. Masks have many purposes, but when we mask who we truly are, we deceive ourselves and others. Many obstacles cause us to put our masks on. Avoiding rejection, lacking emotional support, or having difficulty acknowledging and understanding our own emotions can trigger the need to hide our identities.
The process of unmasking is encouraged by the belief that we are truly accepted and loved by our Maker. We may not uncover our true selves otherwise. He knows it all already because He knows our thoughts from afar (Psalm 139). We cannot fool him. It’s a lonely life wearing a mask. Even comedians who are funny and entertaining often are themselves sad and depressed. Hiding influences our mental health, too. People who deceive find it easier to develop a life that is not subject to scrutiny. Along with this idea comes the lack of accountability, which can create vulnerability to compulsions. Cloud and Townsend in How People Grow state that addictions … “eventually cannot carry the weight of the problems they try to mask.”
Sometimes people mask up because they are protecting themselves. Larry Crabb in Inside Out states, “Self-protection is the silent killer of true community.” Unfortunately, we miss out not only on authentic relationships with each other but also with God. We keep parts of ourselves hidden from Him, and our relationships can become stilted and mechanical. “We forget that change comes from brutal honesty and vulnerability before God” (Dan Allender and Tremper Longman in Cry of the Soul).
Christians seem exceptionally skilled at pretending to be ok when we’re not. Like in the song, Truth be Told by Matthew West, we tell lies to each other about how we are doing. The songwriter concludes that “bein’ honest is the only way to fix it.” The energy expended to stay “masked up” can be tremendous. It’s our choice what we do, mask or unmask? Freedom can come in being cautiously truthful but also involves continuous growth in vulnerability, not just a one-time revelation. I think it’s worth it when we have the satisfaction of meaningful relationships with God and others. In addition, faith can become more authentic in this environment.