Saturday, July 25, 2020

SELF-ACCEPTANCE, SELF-DECEIT, AND MASKS





What happens when we wear a mask, and I’m not talking about a Covid-19 mask, but a mask that doesn’t allow others to see “the real me?” Nor am I talking about a temporary mask, which we wear when we have a job interview or on a first date. Instead, I’m talking about a mask we wear when we even go to bed or take a shower – a full-time mask, which hides us from even knowing ourselves.

Did you ever feel that you want the freedom to just be yourself but didn’t know how? Why not? Because you forgot who you are and were perplexed about how to even be you!

For years, I felt that way. I wanted to be me and to be free of what others thought of me but was clueless about how to do this. I was trapped behind my mask and couldn’t remove it, even when I was alone.

This creates a lot of problems. When you hide yourself from others, they cannot know you and, therefore, can’t feel comfortable with you. They might feel that there is a distance but might not be able to pinpoint it. Consequently, they cannot have a real conversation with you, since they don’t know who they are talking to.

Why do we wear a mask to begin with? We want others to approve of us and fear that they will not. This is because we do not approve of ourselves and feel that we are not worthy of love. Therefore, we try to be someone else. One way to do this was like the central figure in a Woody Allen movie. He tried to be just like the one his was presently with, hoping to win their approval.

Pathetic? Yes! It is a form of psychological imprisonment to be so dependent upon what others think of you that you lose yourself. You become so dependent upon them that you even hate them when they don’t seem to approve of you or approve of someone else more than you.

Wearing a mask also prevents any growth or psychological integration, the ability to center and control yourself like a karate expert. Why is this? If you don’t know yourself and what you need to correct, you cannot manage yourself properly. Whatever we manage well, we must first understand, but when we are self-deceived, a working understanding is no longer possible.

How can we learn to accept ourselves the way we are so that we can understand ourselves and live transparently, instead of behind a mask? This is not easy. A multitude of studies reveal that “normal” people are quite self-deceived and, consequently, are also wearing a mask, hiding from themselves and the world. Of what  does the mask consist? An inflated self-esteem to shield us!

However, some psychologists claim that a little self-deception is a good thing. It gives us the confidence to shoot high and to pursue our goals. Other pundits add that once we begin to achieve our goals, we can begin to lay aside our mask and to be ourselves.

However, others observe that we are insatiable and never arrive at a place of contentment and peace. For example, the richest man in the world in his day, John D. Rockefeller, was asked, “How much more money will you need to be happy?” His answer was very revealing: “Always a little bit more.”

Other commentators claim that our ego is the culprit. If we’d learn to control the demands of our ego, we’d find peace-of-mind. However, this is like saying, “Our mind is the problem, and we just need to be able to turn it off.” But perhaps we experience our ego and mind in a negative way because they are being negatively impacted by something deeper. Perhaps they are in overdrive—obsession mode—because there is a deeper problem, which hasn’t been resolved.

We are, in essence, moral beings. We need to feel that we are significant, valuable, morally worthy, and deserving. However, on the deepest level, we know that we aren’t. Therefore, we will even do desperate things so that we can prove our worthiness. In The Significant Life, attorney George M. Weaver argues that our quest for self-importance governs our lives. He documents this quest in many ways:

·       Salvador Dali once said, “The thought of not being recognized [is] unbearable”…Lady Gaga sings, “I live for the applause, applause, applause…the way that you cheer and scream for me.” She adds in another song, “yes we live for the Fame, Doin’ it for the Fame, Cuz we wanna live the life of the rich and famous.” (7)

The quest for fame and significance can be as demanding and life-controlling as our quest for food. It can take many forms. For Lady Gaga, it takes the form mass adoration. However, the quest for adoration never seems to produce contentment.

Comedian Al Jolson had achieved fame, but it was never enough to insulate him from jealousy:

·       According to his biographer, “He once had a team of performing elephants fired because he thought the audience liked them too much.” (59)

However, this quest to feel good about ourselves takes more sinister forms. John David Chapman had gunned down his ideal, John Lennon, so that he could feel that, at last, he would be a “somebody.”

This suggests that, deep down, we feel bad about ourselves and are not a “somebody.” We have an unshakable sense that something is wrong with us. As a result, we try to convince ourselves that we are worthy by virtue of our accomplishments, whether academic, monetary, or in terms of beauty, social approval, or respect. Consequently, when we fail or are rejected, criticized, or disrespected, it feels as if we are naked and vulnerable, and we no longer feel worthy. We then seek to rebuild our self-esteem and feelings of worthiness.

What makes us feel unworthy, and what are we trying to cover over with our masks? I’d like to suggest something that most will find highly offensive. We are trying to defend ourselves against the truth. Not only are we alienated from ourselves, we are also alienated from the One who created us. We have lived in violation of our own moral standards imprinted within, but we are also living in violation of the One who has imprinted these standards. To make matters worse, we know this but cannot stand to face our moral failures. Therefore, we try to mask over this knowledge. As a result, we have become lovers of the lie and the mask, as Jesus had taught:

·       “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

Consequently, the last thing we want is exposure. What is the answer? We need to make peace with what we have suppressed, but how? Through the love, forgiveness, and reconciliation with the One we have long rejected, the One who had died as payment for our sins. Don’t think that you can achieve self-acceptance and psychological integration through mental exercises of self-forgiveness or self-acceptance. No – the suppressed material is simply too threatening to face. It tells us that we deserve condemnation!

To know His love and acceptance enables us to accept ourselves, with all of our failings, to discard the mask, and to be free from the dominating opinions of others. This is what the love of Jesus is doing for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.