Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with superheroes. Whether it was movies, comic books, video games, or action figures, my attention was enraptured. But what I’ve been reflecting on lately since finishing the Daredevil series on Netflix, is how important living a double life is to each hero. A double life where Clark Kent is a reporter during they day but Superman at night. A double life where Bruce Wayne is a billionaire during the day but Gotham’s Batman at night. Where Matthew Murdock is a lawyer during the day but the Daredevil at night. Most of my favorite heros in some way or another live double lives. And their double lives are symbolized by their use of a mask.
The mask protects their identity. For some, they wear the mask so that those who are close to them won’t be hurt by who they really are. They wear the mask for protection from those who would seek to hurt them if they were to know the truth about who they really are. They wear the mask to live a double life.
Although you and I might not be superheroes. We all have used a mask at some point in our lives. The mask is whatever assumed identity you take on to keep others from seeing the real you: the real issues, struggles, and problems you’re going through. The mask is whatever you do to protect you from those who attempt to get close you.
My mask takes a different form depending on the situation. Depending on what I’m going through that day, determines what kind of mask I put on. So if I’m feeling insecure I’ll put on the mask of success. The “mask of success” allows me to feel better about myself. My favorite mask to wear was the church boy/perfectionism mask. It’s the mask that fit me seamlessly. But I didn’t just have the mask, I had the outfit and language to go with it. But like every superhero, someone eventually got a peek behind the mask.
I was having a horrible week during my junior year of college and I felt really weighed down. One Friday night after a church event, I was talking to my friend Daph. Up until that point we were cool, but I wouldn’t say that we were close. As we were talking I accidentally began to confess and vent about what was really going on in my head. For the first time in a long time, I was vulnerable. It was an uncomfortable and rather foreign emotion. By the time I realized that I was bearing my heart it was too late.
I expected him to look at me with shocked, confused, or judgmental eyes; all things I thought my mask protected me from.
But Daph didn’t give me the reaction that I was expecting. Instead, he just understandingly shook his head and said “Bruh, I know exactly what you’re going through. I feel you.”
And for some reason I knew he meant it. The mask, that I had worked so hard to make bullet proof was finally removed. Except unlike in my imagination, I wasn’t rejected, turned down, or judged. I left that conversation feeling like a weight had been lifted off. Unbeknownst to me, that conversation with Daph would be the start of one of my closest friendships.
Putting on the mask was my way of hiding. But hiding is pointless and not worth the pain. For some of you like me, your mask is the reason you can’t have genuine relationships with others. You’re not protecting anyone by putting on your mask. You’re only hurting yourself. Even though the mask may gain popularity and fame, you’ll never be satisfied because the person they’re applauding is not you. They’re applauding the mask.
So what are some things you can do to take off the mask and live in genuine honesty and transparency?
1. Form a Circle
Let’s be real. The reason many of us wear our respective masks is because we distrust the people around us. We don’t believe they have our best intentions in mind. The mask allowed me to gain acceptance and even popularity with others. But what the mask never allowed me to do was form genuine relationships. You can not enjoy honest, healthy relationships while wearing a mask.
What I’m not trying to do is encourage you to do is pour the deepest thoughts of your heart to everyone you come across. Nor should you be indiscriminate about who you allow yourself to be transparent and vulnerable with.
In my experience if a person has proven themselves to be a gossip, a liar, or refuses to be transparent themselves, I’d advise against being vulnerable with that type of person. If your “friend” always has the tea about everyone else, they’re probably not the person you should talk to.
But just because some people can’t be trusted doesn’t mean no one should be trusted. Take some time and evaluate the people in your life currently. Who are the people that are always honest with you (whether you want to hear it or not). They should be individuals that you enjoy talking to. Individuals who do more listening than talking. Individuals who can pray with you through some of the tough times in life. If you don’t have those type of friends in your life right now say a prayer and ask God to place those kinds people in your life. I did it. And He has.
2. Stop Covering Up
So after you’ve chosen a few individuals that you can take off the mask with you have to decide to be honest. This was the most difficult part for me, and it’s still something I’m working on. I didn’t want anyone seeing my scars. I didn’t want anyone else seeing my many imperfections. I didn’t want to talk to others about my insecurities. But I’ve learned over the years that whatever I choose to hide, God can’t heal. I’ve realized that I will never experience change until I stop covering up my brokenness.
So with your friend(s), set up times where you can hang out or talk on the phone. Let them in on whatever is going on in your life. Whether it be about work, relationships, family – be honest about it all. Healing requires honesty.
3. Be Consistent
Healing requires honesty, but you don’t get healed the first time you dip in the pool of honesty. It’s a process. You have to make it a habit, something consistently apart of your life. Taking off the mask is a hard process. I’ve learned that being honest and transparent can be painful and I’d rather hide away in a corner. But perhaps, just like going to the gym, the pain is a sign that that the process is working; that the honesty is changing you into the person that God designed you to be.
So today, make the commitment to live in honesty and transparency. Once you experience the joys of freedom you’ll see that your former life was one of sorrow and bondage. Take your mask off.
“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed…”
James 5:16-18 MSG