Why is it so difficult to tell the truth – to be real and authentic – about ourselves?
What are we afraid of?
Our fears, insecurities and doubts have caused many of us to don masks of self protection. These masks have one purpose. They serve as barriers to truth. They are false security measures meant to protect us from the outside world. To allow others to see who we are, hear what we think, or view the depths of our soul, requires love and trust. For many of us, we have painfully discovered that the world around us is a hurtful and unloving place. Our past experiences in life have shown that others are often disinterested, uncaring, judgmental, or just plain insensitive. These life lessons have taught us that wearing a mask and hiding behind them is prudent and necessary for our survival.
Why should we open up and be real if we are only going to be judged, misunderstood, or ignored altogether?
It feels safer to live in a place of self deceit. Doesn’t it?
Until, something happens.
Life has a way of exposing us. Our fears, our insecurities, and self deceit are brought to the surface in times of crisis.
Unemployment or lack of consistent work
Disease or injury
Death of a significant loved one
Major changes in life (ie. marriage, pregnancy, birth of a child, child leaving home, divorce., etc.)
Any one of these life stressors or the combination of them is able to rip the masks off our faces. It’s at this moment that we have a choice.
Do we stoop down and reach for the mask that has kept us hidden and protected and place it over our faces once again?
Or do we leave the mask on the ground and walk onwards – being open and honest about what has happened and is happening in our lives?
Let me be straight. I have observed that masks of self protection and self deceit rarely have done anyone any good. Or to be perfectly honest, the masks that I have worn were harmful to me, my relationships with others and with my God.
As I have been reading and studying the book of James for the past month, I agree with Matthew Henry: “The word of God flatters no man. Let the word of truth be carefully attended to, and it will set before you the corruption of your nature, the disorders of your hearts and lives; it will tell you plainly what you are.”
Reading the book of James requires me to be real about who I am, about what I do, about the motives that drive me, about the choices I make, and the actions I commit. James is not for the feint of heart. As Matthew Henry said, some of the exhortations have caused me to look long and deep into the recesses of my soul.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. New International Version, James 1:22-25
Deceive comes from the Greek transliterated word paralogizomai. Paralogizomai is the ability to reason incorrectly, discount, deny, or circumvent the truth. Paralogizomai are the steps we often take to deceive ourselves and others.
James’ words exhort us to hold up mirrors to not only our faces but to all of the ways we speak, think, and act in life. As we look into our mirrors without our masks, we may ask: Do our lives demonstrate that we live according to the Word of truth and our need for a Savior? Or do our lives circumvent the truth about who we are and what we are doing in life?
Perhaps this is often the reason so many of us don the mask of self protection in the first place. We don’t want to admit the truth. We don’t want to admit that we are corrupt and that we sin. We don’t want to admit that we are trapped in a state of fear and misery. We don’t want others to discover our secrets. We don’t want to admit that we don’t have all the answers. And we don’t want to admit that we have need. After all, wearing a mask hides our sin and our desperate need for God.
But if we decide to take our masks off, what then?
Here’s the deal as I see it. If we expect that taking our masks off will make a difference in the lives of some one else, it may. However, it also may not. Some may actually pay no notice at all. Removing our masks of self deceit and looking intently at ourselves – inside and out – and intently into the word of perfect law, the word of truth, the word of hope, and the word of love will free us! Asking for forgiveness for our sin, receiving it from our God, and basking in the grace of salvation and mercy sets us free from the control of sin and its steely grip of self protection. Removing a mask is not for the sake of others, but rather for the sake of our life, our freedom, and our joy!
Wouldn’t we like to be set free from shame?
Wouldn’t we like to be set free from judgment?
Wouldn’t we like to be set free from feelings of unworthiness?
Wouldn’t we like to be set free from insecurity?
Wouldn’t we like to be set free from the lies we tell ourselves and our self deceit once and for all?
If yes, it begins by holding up a mirror, dropping our masks, and looking at ourselves square in the face and examining our hearts.
I don’t want to be afraid to be who I am and be who God created me to be.
It’s time to see the truth.
It’s time to ask for forgiveness.
It’s time to act with love and grace.
And it’s time to live the way God intended me to live – without a mask.
What do you think? Will you drop your mask and be a person of love, forgiveness, grace, and truth with me?
Photo image retrieved from Google Search Mask Images