Masks are for Halloween

I was bopping down Route I-195 the other day heading toward UMass Dartmouth (does anyone say bopping anymore? Oh well, I just did). A song came on the radio that caught my attention. I believe the title is “Secrets,” by Mary Lambert.

The song brought on some deep sadness as I drove along. It brought to mind many people that I have met or have worked with. Whether working with adults, our young high school students or college-age students, I come across many people who, just as the song portrays, hide their true selves from others and who are misunderstood. They are protecting themselves from a world that just won’t accept them as they are. They have been hurt and marginalized so often. They are lonely. They feel unloved and many times they are just lost. 

I have also met others who seem to have it all together, but they are also hiding the pain of brokenness or falsehood. We all, whether we want to admit it or not, hide behind different masks at different times, trying to be the person others expect us to be or the person we would want to be. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. 

The song features confessional lyrics based on Lambert’s real-life insecurities such as: I’ve got bipolar disorder; I’m overweight; and I’m always late. I’ve got too many things to say. My family is dysfunctional. Sometimes I cry a whole day. I care a lot, and never know when to stop. And I’m passive-aggressive. I’m scared of the dark and the dentist. And I never really grew up with a message of acceptance and self-empowerment.

The chorus of the song then continues with, “They tell us from the time we’re young to hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves, inside ourselves. I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else. Well I’m over it.” 

Too thin, too heavy, too tall, too short, good at sports, clumsy, rich, poor. Smart or not as smart. We all grow up in a world that is just too quick to make fun of or marginalize people. Is there any wonder why we need to put up the walls outside to protect ourselves inside? Is there any wonder why we need to slap on masks to portray ourselves as someone other than who we are? The others see us in our various masks.

So let’s take off these masks. Only God Who created us sees us as we really are. When you stand before God, you are what He created. 

As I said, I have met so many young people (and adults) who live behind different masks. They have their “church” mask: the person they are at youth group. And yet, they may also change the mask they wear in their group of friends or their family group. The result of this is that many of us have lost the sense of who we are and who we are meant to be. 

Who are you really? Do you know your identity? That mask is limiting your vision. Wearing that mask, you can’t see what eternal differences you can make in the lives of those you touch. It is important to remember that your life isn’t the only one affected by what you do. You are connected in some way to all of God’s people. So take a chance and take off the mask. Peel it off. Cut it off if you need to. To share God’s love you don’t need to be perfect. You only need to be authentic and real. And when you are, God can do wondrous things through you.

Let’s leave the masks for the Halloween costumes. 

Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 36 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and an eight-month-old grandson. Comments, ideas or suggestions? 

Please email him at DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net.

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