24 September 2020

Our metaphorical masks

Vice-President, Carolyn Lawrence, looks at how we mask ourselves metaphorically as well as now, since Covid-19, physically.

We have all had to get used to wearing masks in recent days!   Whether we like them or not, we are obliged to wear them to help in the war on Covid-19 and to show care for those with whom we come into contact.  As a spectacle wearer I find it very irritating as they constantly steam up when I wear a mask, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure everyone feels safe and secure. 

Carolyn Lawrence wearing a Methodist logo mask made for her 

As well as physical masks, we all learn to wear metaphorical masks.  Sometimes our masks can be helpful in setting boundaries, in avoiding conflict or to avoid getting hurt.  Most of us adapt aspects of our personalities at times to fit in with different settings – we wouldn’t for example behave at an interview in the same way as we would when relaxing with our close friends over a meal table. 

Sometimes, however, the masks we wear can be used as a cover for past hurts or to conceal our insecurity and become an entrenched way of behaving that can cause us to hide who we really are and prevent us having close relationships with others.  It is possible for us to wear so many masks that we lose a sense of who we really are. 

I wonder if you recognize any of the following masks in your own life or the lives of people around you? 

  • People pleasing – needing affirmation from others and going to desperate lengths to keep everyone happy for fear of not being liked or being rejected.
  • Perfectionism – wanting to keep everything under control and just perfect – maybe to live up to some impossible standard they or someone else expects and anxious to avoid failure.
  • Hidden anger – keeping a calm exterior while inside seething with anger or frustration that has not been properly dealt with and built up over many years. Anger that occasionally spills out at inappropriate moments.
  • Fake jollity – joking around, entertaining and animating to avoid having a serious or important conversation because they want to hide hurts or weaknesses.
  • Martydom – someone who needs to be needed and wants everyone to know how busy they are and the sacrifices they make so that people feel sorry for them.
  • Bullying -  someone who is either quietly manipulative or more aggressive in trying to get people to do exactly what they want.  A person who can seem outwardly confident but inwardly is possibly insecure and afraid. 
  • Self-critical – someone who lacks self-worth and is always negative about themselves. Maybe putting themselves down before someone else gets a chance or hiding their talents to stop others feeling intimidated.
  • Self-promoting – someone who is inwardly insecure but makes out they are better than they are – boasting, pushing themselves forward, ensuring they get the credit for things they have done and maybe some things others have done.

These are just a few of the masks we wear and I am certain there are many more!

When I became a Christian as a 15 year old, I was very insecure and had a lot of issues with self-worth.  I know now that I wore a lot of different masks, pretending to be someone I wasn’t, trying to keep everything under control and seeking to please people all the time.  I so wanted to be liked that I would behave differently depending on who I was with and change my views according to the opinions of the other person.   That all became very tricky when a lot of people were in one place together as I really didn’t know who I was or how to behave.   I realise now that I wasn’t living an authentic life and had no integrity. 

Over the years that I have walked with Jesus, I have come to realise my worth to God and how precious I am to him.  I now know that I am loved and valued by God and am able to be myself as I have received healing and release from many past hurts and rejections.  I know that being your true self can make you vulnerable and is not always easy. 

I have found that the key to living without the masks, is to come just as you are into God’s presence and to discover just how valuable you are to him.  One of many verses expressing how loved we are by God is 1 John 3:1, which says ‘How great is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.  And that is what we are!’

Some of you may need to receive support and prayer for healing from past hurts.  You may need time in God’s presence and soaked in his word to discover your true identity in Christ and you may need support in building authentic relationships with people you trust.  I pray that we will all come to a place where we can find our worth in Jesus, remove the metaphorical masks and live our lives in wholeness, integrity and truth. 

Carolyn Lawrence, Vice President of the Methodist Conference.

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