Meeting the Man Behind the Mask

M

asks take many forms. From ornately decorated masquerade-style masks to the air-purifying masks that firefighters use to surgical masks, they all have but one purpose: to cause separation between the wearer and their environment. Sometimes it’s to protect the wearer from something harmful (as in the case of the firefighter being protected from smoke), and other times it’s to protect the world from something harmful inside us (as with surgical masks preventing doctors from sharing germs with patients).

But what about the invisible masks that we wear? We may wear masks that project a controlled version of ourselves that we want people to see, only allowing them to experience a shell of the real us. This generally comes from a fear that we won’t be accepted as we are.

Growing up, I was quiet and observant. I quickly learned what was and wasn’t expected of me. One of the things I learned is that everything was almost always “fine”. I never talked about my emotions, instead choosing to put on what I’ll call a mask of my own creation. As I got older, I carried more of these masks in my pocket, one for school, one for my parents, one for work, one for church, one for friends…and the list went on. I was such a master at managing my masks, that I could quickly adapt to any situation and present whatever was expected of me.

My Mask

For most of my adult life, I had some sort of a mask. It was great for me because I was never vulnerable, never caught off guard, and always prepared to respond as expected.

But the trouble with this type of thing is that the real me–the man behind the mask–almost never saw the light of day. You might ask why that’s a bad thing, and the answer is simple. We aren’t meant to go through life alone. Yet that’s exactly what I was trying to do. Right until the day Jess left me.

That was the day that everything changed. That was the day I took off my mask for the first time.

Up until then, if anyone asked, I’d swear we were happy and loving newly married life. But we weren’t. We fought all the time. We were as far from “fine” as we could be, yet I was trying to keep the mask on.

That day I opened up for the first time to our dear friend and pastor. For the first time, my mask began to disintegrate. I remember sitting on his couch, tears flowing, feeling utterly embarrassed that anyone would see the man behind the mask, let alone see him cry.

But at the same time, it was freeing. It was cleansing. I felt known and still loved. And I wanted more.

Over the next couple of years, I learned about taking my masks off. It was a slow process for sure, but so very worth it. There are times where it isn’t easy for me to be open, but God is continuously working in my heart.

What does the bible say about wearing a mask?

  • We’re called to bear each others’ burdens
  • “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

    Normally “bearing each others’ burdens” brings to mind a duty to help someone else through a hard time, but that’s not all of it. “Each other” makes it clear that it’s a two-way street. Not only are we to help others, but we’re to allow ourselves to be helped in hard times. This requires humility and vulnerability.

  • We need to be sincere
  • The early believers ate together in their homes with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46). Sincerity, by definition, is free from deceit. To be sincere, we must be open and vulnerable. A mask is fake so, therefore, can’t be sincere.

  • We shouldn’t suffer alone
  • “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

    If every part of the body of Christ comes alongside one believer who is suffering, it must be true that the person who is suffering opened up to someone else about their pain. How could everyone come alongside someone who swears they’re doing well?

  • We are called to love
  • “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

    For us to love anywhere near as deeply as Christ does, we must get to know and share the people behind our masks and spend time with others willing to do the same. Christ fully knows and fully loves each one of us. It’s from that depth of knowing every bit of who we are that Christ can love us fully. We can’t fully love someone exactly as they are if they just show us their mask. Christ doesn’t love our masks–He loves the broken, hurting, incomplete, sinning people that we try to keep hidden behind them. When we are in community with others who are willing to be transparent, we can truly love how God calls us to love.


    “Christ doesn’t love our masks–He loves the broken, hurting, incomplete, sinning people that we try to keep hidden behind them.”

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  • We grow when we share
  • “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

    By being open and honest, we grow through our struggles and become stronger instead of burying them and feeling the subtle ache for a long time.

  • Jesus purifies us when we take off our masks
  • “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

    By walking in the light and not hiding anything, we build deep relationships by openly admitting and sharing our struggles, and Jesus purifies us, often through those relationships.

  • We are called to confess
  • “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

    The very nature of confession is to remove our mask deliberately and in front of someone. To choose to let them, and God, into our most broken and painful places. Confessing is the start of the healing of many types of sin. If you’re hiding some sort of sin behind your mask, I’d encourage you to find someone you trust and share your struggle with them. Ask them to pray with you. Try to keep the relationship a mask-free zone. If you don’t have any close friends, ask about a support group at your local church.

  • We are called to forgive others
  • “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

    We often start wearing a mask when we’ve been hurt by someone or something. Rather than forgiving and healing the wound, we bury it down deep and pretend we don’t hurt. Except we still do, and that pain comes out in subtle ways no matter how tightly we hold our mask on.

    By choosing to forgive, we free ourselves from the hurt we feel and we allow Jesus to come into our hearts and start healing us. Forgiveness isn’t for the person or thing that hurt you, and it’s not because they deserve it. It’s for you because you don’t deserve to carry around bitterness and pain. God doesn’t want that for you.

  • We are called to forgive ourselves
  • Forgiveness, however, isn’t limited to others. Sometimes the most important person we need to forgive is the person behind our own mask. Where have we fallen short? What have we done that we’re ashamed of?

    The Bible tells us that we are not condemned for our sins, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2, emphasis mine). That’s it. If we are in Christ, we are not condemned for our sin.

    Not only are we not condemned, but God forgives us every single time we ask.

    “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18).

    Now, if the God of our universe forgives us in our shortcomings, we only have two choices:

      1. Accept His grace, agree with His decision to forgive us and forgive ourselves
      2. Choose to think we know better than God, and refuse to forgive ourselves

    There is no third option.

    Ultimately, there are two reasons why we put on masks:

    1. Pride
    2. When we care about what others think, we put on masks to gain their approval. Philippians 2:3-4 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

      Instead of putting a mask on to save face, try being humble. Instead of looking at how opening up will make you feel uncomfortable, focus on how your openness can help others open up about their struggles.

    3. Fear
    4. Fear is connected to pride. What if I take off my mask and I’m rejected? What if I’m not good enough?

      But what does God say about fear?

      “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

      “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

      “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

      Fear isn’t a reason to wear a mask either. Instead, it’s a reason to draw nearer to God.

Masks are safe and easy. Many of us are so accustomed to wearing one that we forget we have it on. We change the appearance of our mask all the time to make people like us more or to ease our own anxiety with the fear or pride we are holding onto so strongly. It’s easy. But it’s not real. How much more would you like to take off the mask and still be fully loved, with all of your struggles, sin, and shortcomings? That’s what a relationship with Jesus is, and that’s the type of relationship He has called us to have with each other. Jesus doesn’t want us to carry our burdens all by ourselves. He wants to have a real, intimate relationship. He wants our heart, but this can only happen when we are willing to take off our masks. It’s scary to get started, but it’s totally worth it.

Do you wear a mask sometimes? All the time? Where could you start to take it off? Is fear or pride holding you back? Are you ready to let go? Share with us in the comments below…

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