Richard Rohr writes that as little kids we instinctually place a mask called personality over our true self to protect us from harm and make our way in the world. Our personality helps us know and do what we sense is required to please our parents, to fit in and relate well to our friends, and to get our basic needs met. This is fine for a child, but as we grow these masks begin to trap us and prevent us from living out of our authentic self.
We are afraid of sharing our inner light, for fear that it may be extinguished.
We are afraid of sharing our inner darkness, for fear that we will be exposed and rejected.
As a result we hide our true identities and in the process we become separated from our own souls. We end up living half-hearted and divided lives. We can never really open up and be honest about our true beliefs and feelings, not even with ourselves.
We yearn to be whole, but dividedness often seems like the easier choice.
“Before we can become who we really are, we must become conscious of the fact that the person who we think we are, here and now, is at best an impostor and a stranger.” - Thomas Merton
What masks do you wear? (smart, professional, cultured, powerful …etc.)
What parts of yourself might you be trying to hide?
“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” - Friedrich Buechner
Over the course of the summer I began to realize how often I hide behind the mask of being a pastor. I hide from people because I am afraid I really don't have what it takes to give people what they need or want from me. I am afraid I do not have the best answers for the harsh realities of life, or worse, that I don't really care enough to help. I am often so preoccupied with my own needs that I don't have the emotional, spiritual or physical energy to open up and be real. There have been times that I find myself even hiding from God because I am afraid that I have disappointed Him.
“Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” - Brene Brown
Slowly, and awkwardly, I am learning to open up again to the people I love and trust. I am attempting to overcome the fear that I might get hurt or rejected. I am trying to radically redefine myself from “Pastor Paul” (wise, composed, flawless) to just “Paul” (naive, hysterical, scared) who happens to be a pastor. In the end, I am a broken and flawed human being who is loved and accepted by God, just like everyone else.
Each of us were created with a soul, designed to be connected to God and to others, in order to uniquely flourish. What would it look like for you to set down some of your masks, to start trusting God and to begin living life wholeheartedly?
- Pastor Paul