Every October we celebrate Halloween and see children (and others) wearing an assortment of costumes and masks. Featured are monsters, witches, goblins and ghosts as well as favorite cartoon characters, movie heroes and beautiful smiling princesses.
It’s interesting how often we wear masks, not just at Halloween but throughout the year. Sometimes we wear monster masks to scare children. “Clean your room now or you’ll be grounded for a month!” Other times we wear smiling beautiful princess masks. “Everything is just fine” (but underneath is a very sad and lonely face).
And sometimes we change masks several times during the day depending on the occasion and with whom we’re talking. We may start out in the morning as a witch, later change into our Cinderella mask, put on the monster mask when the kids come home from school, and our beautiful smiling princess mask as we greet friends in the evening. It’s amazing how adept we can be at changing masks throughout the day. Masks can be fun and perhaps, at times even serve some useful purpose, as long as we know that’s what they are – masks - not us.
However, therein lies the problem. Sometimes others and even we ourselves don’t realize all we’re doing is wearing masks. If work isn’t done on the inside, the lonely sad face will continue, no matter how faithfully we wear the smiling princess mask. And sometimes if that is all we allow others to see, we don’t give them the chance to help us smile on the inside too.
It can take tremendous courage to remove our masks and risk whether we will be loved and accepted for who we really are. This may involve coming into an “awful recognition” of our vulnerabilities and weaknesses. How tempting to put the mask back on! And yet, only as we are vulnerable and real are we able to truly give and receive love. Only as we remove our masks are we able to feel real joy.