My 83 year old mother recently told me something she had never told me before. She said that she had been thinking about the past and realized that she had not thought to protect me or take my hurts seriously because I was always so strong- so confident. “You never showed that you needed anyone. You have been that way since you were young. But just the other day I could see that inside of that tough woman is a little girl who hurts just like everyone else.” I cried. When I was alone, I cried some more. It was healing to hear.
People have been telling me about this disguise in one way or another my whole life. “You are ten feet tall and bullet-proof”, “We had no idea you would need anything when you broke your arm- You are just so strong”, “I wish I could handle things like you do”, “I wish I was that brave”, ” If I had gone through what you just did, I would be crushed”, “You are so strong”, “You are so confident”.
But…I am not. Not always. I crumble- sometimes at the dumbest things like a hurtful comment or perceived rejection. However, I am great at covering the crumble with a firmly placed mask I don’t like to show deep hurt or any weakness- even to those closest to me, although I do slide the mask away with a few trusted persons as long as it remains close at hand so I can pull it back on again at a moment’s notice.
The mask is not the same as when I am depending on the strength that comes from God. It is different from my grit or using self- affirmation. I do rely on these resources, especially the Lord. However, when I pull on the mask, it doesn’t empower me. It does not heal me. It hides.
The mask appears instantly during those times of failing, those times of being damaged or when feeling fear of being accepted. I don it at the possibility of a deep core wound cutting deeper with exposure. It hides and in the hiding I lose the possibility of what I most need to gain: Protection, comfort, encouragement, support, understanding, and love.
“What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” Exodus 18:15
I don’t always wear the mask. I am bold enough to tell people my thoughts and feelings or my truth (as I see it) and will try to do it with as much grace as possible. I am confident about giving people true compliments and am honestly a fairly positive person. However, I have learned when it comes to expressing what I need or revealing an especially painful hurt, exposing it makes me feel too weak, too vulnerable. It is just so much easier to put on the mask and walk away feeling neglected, rejected and hurt. Unfairly, the person on the other end, has no idea I feel this way at all.
This false exterior was significant in the demise of my marriage on the mountain. I was not willing to take the risk to express what I needed or how I truly felt. Eventually, I imploded from the pent-up hiding and drove away from my marriage and my life- not truly giving my husband the chance to fix it…until it was too late. Of course, there were other factors, as is with the end of every marriage. It is most often not one thing, but the mask did not help. It hides.
The Lord is my strength and my shield. Psalm 28:7
Recently during some vulnerable times, with help from the Lord, I have begun to experiment with sliding the mask down in situations where it felt safe. I have even removed it altogether a few times. It has been scary and satisfying. In these moments I have found an almost shocking degree of encouragement and help. It not only surprises me at how willing people are to support and be there for me, it surprises them that (1) I am feeling needy and vulnerable because I am so strong and confident and/or (2) that I am even asking in the first place. And… the fact that they did not just magically intuitively see the pain and need behind the mask surprises me.
Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom. Proverbs 13:10 NASB
Therefore, one of my 2020 goals (aside from losing 22 pounds and drinking more water) is to look for wise and safe opportunities to slide the mask off more than I keep it on, to ask people for support (I truly need yours on this blog as it keeps me brave and writing) and help when I need it, and to share hurts in a way that does not negate my need for comfort and protection. It’s a tough goal and a long time coming, but I am putting it out there so feel free to hold me accountable.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25
I am so grateful for all those of you who read this blog. I truly appreciate your strengthening support. I wish each and every one of you a wonderful new year. Here’s to an incredible 2020!
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33 amp