Last Saturday night I went to a Halloween party with a very simple price of admission- wear a costume. It was fun guessing what people were trying to be. Some were scary. Some were sexy. Some were scary trying to look sexy (no one wants to see that.) Some were cute. Some were clever. Some were thrown together at the last minute. Some applied make up. And some wore masks. In fact, masks has become my least form of costume. Sure they usually looks the most realistic. But they’re also a huge burden to keep on throughout the night.
Masks take work.
I was a gorilla. Fully covered in fur. Black painted face. And then a big fury rubbery mask to top it off. It looked amazing.
“Oh my… who is that?” people would ask as I made my entrance. I refused to immediately reveal myself.
People didn’t know me. The anonymity felt liberating, somewhat powerful for a moment. I would go up to people I barely knew and act in a gorilla fashion, in a way a gorilla might act. They enjoyed it.
More friends arrived. As the night progressed I found myself standing in a circle with some friends, with an extra long straw extending from my beer into my gorilla mask (I came prepared). The group was talking, sharing stories, laughing, etc. But I couldn’t really hear or see clearly what was happening around me. I would step on people’s toes, bump into things, and lean in and have to shout through the mask just to join the conversation.
My mask was getting in the way of my relationships.
My mask looked cool, even realistic for a gorilla. But I couldn’t maintain it. An hour into the party I took my mask off. Immediately I felt more connected with the people around me. I could see them all. I could hear them all. I could look a person in the eye, and I could whisper into someone’s ear.
Removing the mask allowed for more connection and relative intimacy with the people around me.
And once I removed my mask, I was better able to see what masks other people had on.
Halloween masks can be like the masks we wear every day. We think we look good wearing them. And we may even entertain the people around us with our masks. But as long as we wear a mask we are cutting ourselves off from having real connection with those around us.
Take off your mask.
When we make the decision to take off the masks in our life, we are being honest and transparent with our friends and others. We are also in a stronger position to notice the masks- the hurt, the hidden pain, guilt, shame, insecurity, of those around us. And in love, we don’t rip their mask off for them. Rather, we allow them to connect with our mask less self, and end up inviting them to remove their mask along the way.
Throughout different parts of life we tend to wear different masks. Sometimes its intentional. Sometimes it gradually builds up over time. But always, we have the choice to rip our masks off, revealing our true messy selves, allowing others to love us for us, with the freedom and clarity of not wearing a mask all our lives.