Social life is full of masquerade balls—that’s what I’ve learned. Why else would it be that, when I try to understand people, I take one step forward and two steps back. I am still a terrible dancer at these balls, these games of etiquette and glamour. I constantly step on others’ feet without meaning to and am out of sync with a rhythm that most seem to know by heart—but is it by heart?
Sometimes, I see glimpses of a different reality, of a different person, from someone whom I thought I knew, and then I wonder which version is real. Perhaps they’re both real and each different trait is struggling against each other for dominance. But many times, it’s not about traits fighting for dominance. No, society’s masquerade balls are not about the dancer; they’re about his mask.
Not that I can judge. I, too, have many masks. I don’t always wear one, but it’s easier to put forward what others want you to be instead of who you are.
Unfortunately, we all have inclinations to hide our natural selves, leading us to put on masks. As clergyman John Tal Murphree said, our carnal nature is “an innate, inborn, inbred tendency to sin,” (Jon Tal Murphree, author of The Love Motive, 27), a tendency that distorts God’s image in us the more we give into it. Our natural faces have lost their holy glow, and that glow is now replaced with the taint of sin nature (Rom. 5:12).
However, we still want to impress others and live peacefully among our fellow man. After all, we were made for God’s pleasure (Rev. 4:11).
But when our carnal and spiritual natures clash, we often try to fulfill our life purpose in imperfect ways or to convince ourselves that we are doing right. That is the point of the masks: to hide the ugliness within and retain favor with others. However, without God’s mercy, we fall short (Rom. 3:23).
Why is it so hard to tell the truth? We all say that we want people to be honest with us, but as social creatures, it’s hard to live up to that standard because were was not meant to live alone (Gen. 2:18). Not that this excuse will hold up in God’s court. He offers us His comfort if we come to Him, after all.
But when we seek man’s approval before God’s, then men “become gods: then they become demons” (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 8)—meaning that anything in rivalry with God’s love eventually becomes hateful to us.
It’s like when we overindulge in our favorite sweets, and after throwing them up refuse to eat them anymore. When we worship other things before the true God (things like grades, family, entertainment, or ourselves), it doesn’t matter how innocent the pleasure is: it only matters that we’ve overindulged. We’ve placed it before God, and then we throw it up in regret as a result.
Then we hide. We hide because we fear rejection, we fear losing the connections we have, and we fear that we won’t be able to make new friends, and we let this motivate us to put on a good (a false) face.
After all, these masks don’t change our reality. They only change our view of our reality.
But when we lie to our own conscience, we commit the ultimate betrayal: the betrayal of self. Because our guilty consciences haunt us, we learn to fix the mistakes, or more likely, ignore them, excuse them, and twist the biblical doctrine of sin until it becomes just another word, like toy or truck. All these lies that we tell others, and all these lies that we tell ourselves, are meant to hide the sin nature and its works from prying eyes.
But instead of putting on a mask when the value system we claim to have and the actions we want to take clash (Abraham Harold Maslow, 25), we should strive to be honest with God and man.
After all, these masks don’t change our reality. They only change our view of our reality. They trick our minds, confusing our conscience until it can’t tell us right from wrong. But masks can do more than trick our consciences. They can trick others, closing us off from help. It is pertinent that we stop lying to ourselves. It is pertinent that we take off our masks.
Be back next week for pt. 2 to learn about the masks we wear for others.