Masks Off: Disliked for Who You Are or Loved for Who You Are Not?

“Love takes off masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” – James Baldwin

masks

Sadly, I believe that very few of us ever reach true intimacy. I believe most of us have enjoyed the temporary joys of dating and making out and other conventions of relationships. But so few of us will ever reach true intimacy. And the reason is simple. God has given each of us memories and emotions. And when those memories are painful and those emotions are hurt by people that we love, we make a decision – consciously or subconsciously – to never let anyone hurt us like that again. Unfortunately for us, making that decision does absolutely nothing to our stronger desire to connect with others.

After watching different movies about life in the penitentiary, I discovered that a man would rather be in general population where he is in danger of being shanked (stabbed) or violently sodomized against his will than to be locked up in solitary confinement. It is the worst punishment for even the most hardened criminal to be locked away from others – even though those others may have and may continue to hurt them. This goes to show that all humans were made for connection with other human beings despite how hurt they’ve been in times past.

So how do we cope with that cognitive dissonance? How do we love WITHOUT risking hurt? This post does not attempt to answer that question. The previous paragraph just goes to show that humans want connection in spite of pain. Yet despite our desperate need and desire to connect, why come so few of us achieve it?

I believe the reason we cannot achieve true intimacy is because our past hurts “force” us to put on masks. They don’t actually force us, but they terrify us enough to put them on because we fear what could happen if we do not don our masks. Our memories remind us how painful it was the last time we loved as we truly were. Maybe as a child, you reached out to Mommy for a hug and she pushed you away. Maybe you waited hours for Daddy to come home to show him a card you made just for him, only for him to wave you away and lock himself in his room without any greeting or acknowledgement. These simple examples represent profound experiences that shape us. They make us question ourselves as to why our parents don’t like or appreciate us as we are. So we try to alter our real, “unlovable” selves so as to prevent being rejected again for who we really are. We’d rather be loved for we are not than to face the pain of being rejected for who we are.

One thing about masks is that we continue to wear them because they work. If they didn’t work in getting us what we wanted, we would no longer wear them. So masks are effective in a sense. Another thing about masks is that they can be changed at any time – even several times in an hour. So if you meet four different people in an hour, you could act four different ways to make all of them pleased with them. If you felt your Mommy liked you smarter, skinnier, neater, and cuter, you worked on that mask and presented it to her. You saw it made her smile at, compliment, and hug you. If you felt that your Daddy liked you more accomplished, you worked on that mask and presented to your Dad a new you that was a star quarterback, a great tennis player, or a straight A student. And that made Daddy show you off and give you attention. While it is sad that some parents do not love their children unconditionally, it is a reality that must be accepted. And once you accept that you had demanding, perfectionistic parents, you have another choice to make.

You can choose to be disliked for who you are or loved for who you’re not.

And if you make the right decision, you will remove those masks and say, “HERE I AM! LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, BUT I WILL NOT HIDE ANYMORE!”

Now let me explain some things. I am not suggesting that you don’t change anything negative about yourself and command others to love you as you are if who you are is abusive, offensive, and criminal. Don’t molest children, beat up people on the street, and call people outside of their names and then say, “Love me for who I am because I refuse to hide under my mask anymore!” By no means! But what I am saying is that you have to understand that if you are not intentionally hurting anyone, you do not have to change to make people except you.

Another disclaimer is that you also have to understand that people have expectations of adults. A newborn baby is expected to do absolutely nothing but eat, sleep, and poop. No one is disappointed in them for not knowing the alphabet. No one is shaking their head in shame because they are not walking. No one is scolding them for not changing their own diaper. So you must know that when you are an adult – especially a male – people expect you to work a job. Also, as an adult, people expect you to obey laws. Don’t be a lazy slob using welfare when you are able to work and then say, “Take me as I am!I refuse to work, and I will continue to rob and steal!” (If this is your attitude about not wearing a mask, I personally don’t expect anyone to like you.) But if you are a person who does not hurt others deliberately, who works a job to pay bills and whatnot, and who does not intentionally break laws or biblical commands, then you should not have to put on a mask to make people like you. Just doing those things makes you enough.

So back to what I was saying about intimacy. One cannot be intimate with a mask. You cannot feel someone’s face who is wearing a mask. You cannot know someone who is constantly lying to you. You cannot be intimate with someone who refuses to get close to you. That is because INTIMACY IS THE REMOVAL OF DISTANCE.

Think of intercourse. Intercourse is considered intimate because it is the removal of space between two physical bodies. In fact, not only is space removed outside of the body, but with the woman, the space inside is also removed. There is no distance between two people engaging in intercourse. The same goes for tongue kissing. There is no space left there. So it is intimate.

Well, that was speaking physically. Now let’s think emotionally. When you are truly intimate with someone, you remove all distance between their emotions for you and your emotions for them. They know how you feel about them, and you know how they feel about you. But if you hide your true feelings behind a mask, they do not truly know your emotions. So there is still distance. So there is no true intimacy.

Again, the reason we do not tell them our true feelings is because we fear they will stop loving us. But think of children and their parents. Younger children will tell their parent that their breath stinks because kids are brutally honest. But it doesn’t mean that they will stop loving the parent. We have to stop equating truth with abandonment. And if you do, just understand that those you were honest with who abandoned you were simply unwilling to be close to you. Doubtless, they’ve heard worse things from others that they continued to be in relationship with because they WANTED to be in relationship with them. But don’t let their rejection of you make you redefine the lovability of you. Just take their rejection as redirection to someone who WANTS relationship and intimacy with you.

We want so badly to be loved for who we are, but we learn to hate who we really are because who we really are – flawed – resulted in someone rejecting us. So we hate ourselves so much so that we forget who we are and begin to truly think this mask is the real us. But we must do the thing we think we cannot do. We must remove these masks and dare to be loved for who we truly are. The people who God has for us, will love us without them.

However, if you so decide that life with a mask is preferable to being loved as you are, carry on as you were. But just know that you are not in a real relationship. You are in a dance, an arrangement between a person and a mask.

mask

You Don’t Sin To Make Life Worse, But Because You THINK It’ll Make Life Better!

There's a reason drug addicts, alcoholics, and promiscuous people are still unhappy...

On my other blog, someone had sent me some very intriguing information. It was on the topic of craving vs. liking. I didn’t think there was a difference at first. I figured that if I craved chocolate, I must like chocolate. I thought that if I was seriously crushing on a dude, then it meant I must like him. Right? Wrong. The information this person sent me said that the part of your brain that deals with cravings is totally NOT the same part of your brain that deals with liking things. The information said that we crave what we don’t have within ourselves. For example, if you crave beautiful people it’s because you don’t perceive that you have any beauty in you and you also really want that in you. So when you’re craving things like sex, it’s not because you necessarily would like it at that moment, but more or so that you really want some of the characteristics of that other person to be within you. Just a week or so ago my little sister found this tidbit on Stumbleupon that said if you’re craving chocolate, it’s because your body needs magnesium. You can think you truly love something – or someone – and yet it’s just alerting you of a deficiency within.

At the time I read that, I was particularly craving a young man at my church. I realized that maybe I didn’t like him like I thought I did. After all, we had never had a conversation and he didn’t even know I existed. I knew nothing about him other than how he looked and what he did (minister and work for his church). But I just couldn’t get him out of my mind! My friends would ask me, “So have you all talked yet?” And I’d say, “No.” And they’d think I was delusional. I eventually realized that I craved him because there were certain aspects of him that I didn’t have in myself. I was kind of shy and he was outgoing. He also was more spiritual than I was. Notice how you can really, really, really want to be with someone, and then later you can say, “I don’t even like the guy anymore.” Maybe you were just craving him.

Jeff Vanvonderen says in his book Tired of Trying to Measure Up, “In my opinion, you and I do not sin because we want to make life worse for ourselves. Rather, we sin because we believe it will make life better. We indulge in a negative behavior because we believe it will improve our situation.” He goes on to say that this is a trick of the devil. Satan knows that the only source of true, lasting joy, peace, and life is found in God. The only one we are to look to in order for our validation and purpose is God. But as we all know, Satan doesn’t too much care for our relationship with God, so he wants to turn you on to other gods – false gods/idols to meet your needs. He wants you to look to them for joy, peace, life, validation, and purpose. An idol does not have to be a golden calf. It can be anything that you rely too heavily on to meet your needs. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

“Man, I’m bored! When’s the next party?” NEED – EXCITEMENT SOURCE – PARTY, CLUB

”I’m so lonely! I need to get a man!” NEED – COMPANIONSHIP SOURCE – HUMAN

“I’m sad. I need a drink.” NEED – JOY, HAPPINESS SOURCE – ALCOHOL

“I don’t have any friends. Maybe I should join a sorority.” NEED – COMPANIONSHIP SOURCE – SORORITY

“No one wants to date me. I need a makeover.” NEED – COMPANIONSHIP SOURCE – YOUR LOOKS

“Everyone thinks I’m lame/a square. Maybe I should start doing drugs to fit in.” NEED – ACCEPTANCE SOURCE – DRUGS

“I’m having a nervous breakdown! I need a cigarette.” NEED – PEACE SOURCE – NICOTINE

“No one’s here to hold me! I need my ex back!” NEED – COMPANIONSHIP SOURCE – HUMAN

“Everyone else looks so cool. I need a new wardrobe.” NEED – HUMANS’ APPROVAL SOURCE – MATERIAL THINGS

“I’ll never get married. Pass the ice cream!” NEED – COMPANIONSHIP SOURCE – HUMAN

You see that after every need, you immediately come up with a source or “solution”. Well, a temporary solution at least. I believe that it’s wise to use your common sense to handle problems. If you’re hungry, duh get something to eat. If you want a hug, ask someone. Of course, God wants us to enjoy relationships and to enjoy touch. Babies actually need touch to live. But if you’re sad and turn to food, drugs, alcohol, etc. to meet your needs, you are making it your solution or your god.

Jeff said that in the bible, people didn’t just give their children any kind of name. Back then, your name determined your nature or character. Nowadays, you might hear a name like “Shaquanaquisha” and “Apple” and the girl ends up being just like a Shaquanaquisha or an apple! But back then, names were taken seriously. So when God is called a name in the bible, it really identifies His character. Some of us know God as Jehovah-jireh (our provider), Jehovah-shalom (our peace), Jehovah-raffa (our healer). You see that He is our solution to everything! I’ll admit that many of us hear a lot of people talk about God is this and God is that and yet we never experience that attribute for ourselves, but He really is what He says He is! I used to just go along with the church when they would list off God’s names and I didn’t believe a bit of it. But when I got older, I saw that even if some of them were just talking, God really was all the things He said He is. So anywho, if you never rely on Him as your source and solution, and are always relying on a temporary fix, you are relying too heavily on these idols.

I’ll use a personal example. I used to be very desperate for one of my past boyfriends. I thought all the answers were in him. If I was lonely, depressed, angry, or in need, I went to him for everything. I think that’s why a lot of women are so scared to lose or let go of a relationship that’s wrong for them because they make this individual their god. And if you don’t have your god, you are a mess! If someone convinced me that God didn’t exist, I’d probably not want to live anymore; my world would be shattered and upside down. So the same thing goes for you if you make a boyfriend your god. If he wants to leave you, you’ll freak out because your life’s foundation has been pulled out from under your feet.

So who are your gods?

And by gods I mean your idols. Who are these objects, activities, or persons that you look to for your value, meaning, joy, peace, life, happiness, and approval? Who do you turn to most for your answers? These, my friends, are your gods. Your FALSE gods that is.

Some items that you may make your gods are foods, drugs, alcohols, cigarettes, pornography, video games, money, sports, etc. A lot of church folk have food as their god. Believe it or not, food is the most acceptable drug of the church. Next would probably be prescription medications. People think that they can eat to solve their problems even when Christians will tell you that the only solution to any problem is found in God. But many people eat to dull their pain. Many older single women will binge and stuff themselves full of chocolate, sweets, and soul food in order to numb their pain and their loneliness. As soon as they get sad, they run to the freezer and pull out that Ben & Jerry’s. Who needs one man when you’ve got two?! Before they fall to their knees and pray to God, they eat their hurts away. I believe I heard a statistic that said 1/3 of Americans are overweight. I wonder if it has anything to do with this “false god”. I’ll admit that I was a candy and soda idolater. And thirteen cavities, three root canals, and several $100 dollars later, I learned that this “solution” was more of a problem!!

Drugs and alcohol are obvious. They are quick solutions to painful thoughts and bad circumstances. People get into addictive things like video games and pornography to give them pleasure and to keep unhappy thoughts at bay. I’m not really familiar with sports, but I know people who pretty much WORSHIP sports and athletes. A coworker of mine said her husband was at a barbeque this year where he witnessed one man STAB ANOTHER MAN TO DEATH over an argument about sports teams. I’m sure you’ve seen the real-life videos in other countries where people worship football (what we call soccer). They have such love and dedication to these athletes that they have riots where people get killed. They already know to have dozens of security stationed to protect innocent bystanders. No one should take sports that seriously where you will end a friendship or kill someone over it.

Money is a big one. I remember one dude in particular in college who was so stuck on money and possessions that it was sad actually. He would brag all the time about what he bought, how much money he made, what label of clothes he wore, what vacation he went on, etc. You see, HE thought it was impressive. He thought that if he impressed his colleagues enough, then we would continue to validate him. Maybe money wasn’t his god, but people’s approval was. I believe that everything that young man did was to get a compliment out of us. I think he felt important and validated every time one of us said things like, “I love those shoes! I saw the pictures of your vacation; I’m so jealous! You have the nicest apartment of every one in this college.” And if no one complimented him in a while, he’d come up with something bigger and better. So I think the thing with people who love money is sometimes more of a people’s approval type deal.

Some activities that we can make our false gods are careers, partying, ministry (can you believe it?), and sex. I know someone who puts her job before all else. She might make it to church, if work doesn’t need her. She might have time for her family, if work doesn’t need her. She might cook dinner for and spend time with her husband, if work doesn’t need her. She might exercise, if work doesn’t need her. Every minute of her time goes to work. The tricky thing about the “work god” is that work is not inherently a bad activity. The bible says to work 6 days out of the week, right? Work pays the bills, work is not sinful, and work is biblical. But when you look for all your happiness, purpose, and value in your job, you have a problem. Your kids, marriage, friends, and relationship with God should not suffer because of a job. Work does sometimes have intrinsic value for some people, but it should not be your sole source of joy. God should be. I know that if I was to be a magazine article writer my entire life, I’D LOVE TO WORK! I’d work early, I’d work overtime, I’d work weekends. BUT I will not let work take over my life. I got my priorities straight.

On to partying! Whoo-hoo! Par-tay! Clubs!! Is partying your false god? Do you feel empty, bored, and lifeless until the day of a party arrives? Do you resent weekdays because they’re not those party weekends? Do you feel super excitement getting ready for a party and then when you get home you feel depressed because the party is over? Then maybe partying is your idol. A big idol I saw in college was the idolizing of sororities and fraternities. Some people look for acceptance and their identity in sororities and fraternities. But you have to know who you are in God! That’s your true and most beautiful identity. I noticed that when a sorority girl or frat boy broke up with her boyfriend or his girlfriend, they’d change their Facebook profile picture to a picture of them in their sorority or fraternity jacket. When they felt bad about themselves because of a particularly hard day or a broken heart, they would change their Facebook picture to focus on their identity! Like, if you felt like a loser because your boyfriend cheated on you and dumped you, you would put up a photo of you in your letters (your Greek letters for your sorority) and have a Facebook status saying, “I’m a member of the best sorority on campus! We run the yard!” you would feel better about yourself because you were popular. I don’t look for my identity or self-esteem in my sorority. I look for it in God. I know that I am worthwhile, valuable, and special to God because He is my Father. We as His children are more special to Him than any children are to their earthly parents. And we know how much our friends that are parents LOVE their kids. God loves me SO MUCH more than that! And when you know that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe loves you that much, you don’t need a boyfriend or an organization to validate that about you. Don’t idolize your sorority or fraternity or anything else! If you feel yourself going that way, try to see what’s hurting you to make you do that.

Like Jeff, I don’t think people sin – commit idolatry – to hurt themselves. They sin /commit idolatry because they think that the sin is helping to make their life better. They think alcoholism is helping them to be happy and less anxious. They think drug addiction will help stop their pain. They think sex will help fill their emptiness. They think pornography will help cure their dull and lonely lives. But the ironic thing is that none of those false gods ever does the trick do they? Not for long at least. If they did, you wouldn’t have to do them so often or more and more and more often to feel whole. Who could think that if they have enough sex they would feel complete? There are not any whole prostitutes, and they have all the sex in the world! If sex could satisfy, then promiscuous men would not need it so much. Who ever thought that going to 3 parties a week would make someone feel better about themselves? These idols are counterfeit. They are empty. They are bankrupt. They are not going to work long-term. They work for a few hours, and then you end up feeling EMPTIER than before you even started. They’re not just neutral. They’re actually negative. That means that if you’re feeling a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, after fooling with one of these idols, you’ll actually feel -3 or -4 or -10. This is because you put all your hope in this idol and it fails you!

With God, He’ll never fail you. He has this thing I like to call “alwaysness”. He’s the most stable God there is. He’s the one true God. The only living God. The all-powerful God. If you get obsessed with God, you’ll only feel fuller, never emptier. He’ll never run out. With drugs and alcohol and cigarettes, your tolerance can increase. You’ll never have enough because it’ll take more and more of the thing to “complete” you. And if you keep taking more and more, you die of cirrhosis of the liver, lung cancer, or overdose. You can never overdose on God. There’s no limit to your high or happiness with God. If someone ever tells you that they got bored with God, it’s because the enemy tricked them into thinking that God was not enough. Adam and Eve lived in a paradise and had every need met and were happy as a lark until Satan TRICKED them into thinking God was holding back something fun and good from them. After they ate that forbidden fruit, they felt empty and they were going to die just as God said. They had eternal life and everything they could need and want until they listened to the lie of the enemy. Have you been entertaining Satan’s lies? God is enough. He’s MORE than enough. The world has nothing to offer you. It’s all a trick, and you’ve been warned. Every drug addict has been tricked, every alcoholic has been tricked, every AIDS-infected, STD-infected prostitute and porno start has been tricked, every person is jail has been tricked (unless they are there wrongfully convicted), every criminal has been tricked!

My note is getting long enough as is, so I’ll have to write the continuation and post it at a later time, but the point of this note is to share some knowledge that was shared to me by Mr. Jeff. The knowledge is that even though most people don’t even know that they’re looking for something in these addictive activities, they really are. I never knew that playing video games for hours on end was a way of escapism. People try to escape real life if it’s dull or depressing by going into their little fantasy world games where they run things. I never knew all that! So even if you don’t know all the details about why you get obsessed with random things, please know this: you’re probably looking to this object, activity, or individual to feel some empty spaces, to meet some unmet needs, to heal some unhealed hurts, to resolve some unresolved issues, to bring you joy, peace, fulfillment, to make you feel important, validated, accepted, and approved of. Why go to the bad things that rob you of living life to the fullest if you can just turn to the healthiest “addiction” there is? That healthy addiction is God.