Monday, September 30, 2013

Hiding in Our Place of Security

#When a Woman Finds Her Voice, no. 4

Come out of the shadows and into the light. 
It is where freedom to be yourself can be found. 
To be your real self is to be close to God in abandonment and delight.
To savor His presence.
To become fully who you are and always were meant to be.

I found out I was wearing a mask and I didn't even know it. I wore it to prove my worth to others and to hide those things which made me feel 'less-than' other people I saw as successful.

We all wear a mask, do some pretending now and then. It becomes a problem when the acting isn't recognized, the actions becoming a mask, a performance,  a way of living out what we think others want of us or what we think makes us look normal or effectively hides our areas of inadequacy or helps us seem as more together than we really are or . . . you get the point. 

For many, the hiding of our real selves originates out of our painful experiences. We don't like who we are or the things that have happened to us. There is insecurity, shyness, fear, embarrassment, negative self-image, feelings of failure, learned behaviors, feelings of not being good enough, shame, or not measuring up, guilt, depressive negative thinking, and the list goes on. 

Mostly, we wear a mask to hide our pain issues and inner insecurities in order to project a positive image to the people around us. In the church, it can be an image of the good Christian who is quite capable and productive, who is well-liked and well-behaved, spiritual and holy. 
If it is genuine, no problem. If it's an act, it's a problem.

The mask is something we hide behind, an invisible outer garment of a performance trap. We are unable to see who we really are or we don't want to know the real truth. Outward influences reinforce this faulty thinking.

Sometimes we wear a mask to protect others like our children, parents, colleagues, and friends, to respect their story by protecting it, and to not cause pain by exposing that which would be unpleasant. We know they would be hurt if we tell our story because it is also their story. There is a balance in this, but we fail to understand what is appropriate in our given situation. We say too much or too little. We need healthy boundaries, wisdom, and to quit hiding behind secrets that divide or destroy relationships.

Other times we wear a mask because we've been threatened with repercussions by a person who has harmed us in some way. This is a self-protection that we heed out of fear for ourselves or for those we love. We are told that something bad will supposedly happen to us if we "tell" or take an action contrary to the will of the person threatening us. It keeps us in hiding, fearful of revealing the truth.

At times we wear a mask until the day we experience healing and renewal in our inner person. We are confused about the real us, that part of us which has been hiding from our truth. It is hard to access our real selves in the painful state in which we live ... and this has nothing to do with a disregard for God. Christian people wear masks. They are afraid of what people will think if they were to be their normal self. We think people won't like us if we let down our guard or don't live up to the cultural or religious expectation. 
Once we are whole and healthy, this guard no longer matters.

The mask is unhealthy. It harms rather than protects. The mask encourages duplicity, acting different ways according to the situation. It makes people dishonest in their relationships. Acceptance is something needed for happiness, rejection by others is something to be feared, so one pretends to be what one is not.

Sadly, sometimes we don't even know who we are and we are unaware that a mask is hiding our true identities. Counselors, friends, and ministers often try to help us see our real selves by asking questions aimed at revealing our person to us.  Harbored resentments and bitterness, hurts and shame, may layer in ugly bands around our person, an effective tool to mask our real selves.

In skillful ways and through personality tests, counselors help the person explore the many facets of self, the personality, reactions, interactions, struggles, and inner perceptions. They help us see ourselves. It may take an act of God to reveal the mask with its protective layer, an invisible world of pretense and pretending, the mask of who we think we are in contrast to the true identity of who we are when there is no mask.

Some people never take off the mask. Simply put, they are trapped in a world of make-believe walls. They don't know what it is to be free, to live, to be themselves, or to be happy. Their world is a pseudo world, their performance and productivity seen as the measuring of their self-worth and identity as a successful person. 
Say it ain't so. But it is.

When my mask peeled off, it was a painful process of tearing away the false layers. Mine had been in place for forty-six years. I had to take a look in the mirror. It took exposing first. Father-God helped me see my mask. Then He went to the business of removing it layer by layer. I'm so glad He did!

The day my husband chose to leave our marriage of twenty-one years, he said some negative statements about me that tore into my self-perception and was critical of my Christian walk. At first, I was in denial. Of course, they couldn't have merit, or so I thought. In the year that followed, I found myself asking God to show me what was true about me and what was not true about me. I was open and honest with God. I wanted to KNOW. Each of the harsh statements my husband had said were considered. One by one I held them up to the light of God's mirror. I found out that some were true and some were not true. In some ways I had become a robotic Christian, acting out my faith to meet the expectations of my Christian family and Church family. The false layer of self-righteousness began to be removed. Other areas that were constricting my life began to shed off. Whew!

A year later, at the insistence of one of my five children (some were teenagers at the time), we met with a Christian counselor for a lengthy session. The counselor talked with the children the most, spending time with each one individually while we all listened. The topic was the divorce and how it was affecting them. Past family situations were revisited. Parenting by their two parents was discussed. Opening up with the counselor unleashed something, the plug was unplugged and the comments gushed out. Pent-up emotions came out fast and furious. That day I got an earful, how they saw me as different at church or with my family than when I was at home. How I acted much more animated and perfect with other people than who I really was. How I acted like I had no problems because I never acknowledged my errors or mistakes, and so forth. Some of it was overstated but, in reality, what my children had seen was my mask, my pretense. My mask was an outward form of security that hid my inward insecurity.

My children's words hurt me even though they hadn't meant them to, feeling like an attack on my character. I felt wounded and couldn't seem to stop crying. They regretted having said anything because they loved me dearly. My lack of confidence in myself, caused my wounding in this. Yet, good came from this despite its awkward delivery. As I said earlier, I had promised God that anything he wanted to show me about myself, I would seek to know the truth. In the end, I could see that there was merit in what was said. It made me change, remove the mask, and become genuine. I am thankful it happened because the outcome refined me and made me look at what I was doing.  

Another mask came off as well, a mask caused by pain and suffering, an invisible wall to protect my bleeding heart. This is a whole blog in itself to be saved for another day.
Come out of the shadows and into the light. It is where freedom to be yourself can be found. To be your real self is to be close to God in freedom of abandonment and delight; to savor His presence and to become fully who you are and always were meant to be.

I am one that didn't know I had been hiding behind a mask until the mask was removed. I didn't know my real self. I didn't even know what I was good at, my thinking tended to be negative in content. God doesn't make mistakes. We ALL have something to say. We all have something to offer. And, we all have a God who wants us to be free. Seek Him, then begin removing your mask, whether it be a performance mask or a bandaid mask to hide the injury,  they both need God's interventions.  

Amazon Book Link is HERE
 These thoughts prompted by the content found in the book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, by JoAnn Fore.


  1. What a beautiful path to healing, Norma! Thank you for sharing.

  2. I am delighted you left a comment. It's always nice to be on this side of the issue, when the lessons are acknowledged and learned. Blessings ...

  3. "Come out of the shadows and into the light", my favorite line!! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. Glad you stopped by for a minute to read my blog writing for "When a Woman Finds Her Voice." It's a joy to share. Blessings ...

  4. Thank you people..This is the way...He is the way , the Truth and the life....Keep up the fight.