Weekly Thought – March 25, 2014
Fred believed in the value of psychic space. He carefully respected these lines we draw to protect ourselves. A woman once came up to Fred after a speech to ask a question. Fred responded with another query. She expressed great anger. A psychiatrist friend explained he had violated her psychic space. Friendships negotiate space and the masks we wear to fortress our inner selves.
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The Importance of Masks
Dealing with masks is a critical element of friendship. They must be understood and appreciated.
We all wear masks. We all hide areas of our lives from public view. When we think of them we sometimes feel guilt, anxiety, hurt, and even fear as we think about being exposed. We don’t want everyone to see or know the deepest parts of ourselves.
Friendship allows us to begin the process of unmasking. We take test drives on lifting the mask, judging the reaction of another – dipping our toe into the psychological waters. “Are they shocked? Are they empathetic? Are they nonchalant?” We peek out little by little.
Masks are like bandages. Small ones cover scrapes; rolls of gauze cover serious wounds. We create them to adequately protect the sensitive part of our life – the part we don’t want to open to criticism or ridicule. We don’t even want to lift the bandage to see the hurt ourselves.
In the early stages of a genuine friendship there are sacred moments when the mask is lifted or the other is permitted to glance at the wound. At first these happen through “chance” remarks, humorous allusions, or casual asides. This shifts the mask a bit. This is actually a most critical time and belittling of the situation will firmly reaffix the mask and challenge the friendship.
We guard our masks diligently and read the reactions of others with preciseness. Acceptance encourages us to further lift the mask. We must always be careful because our masks become part of our “real selves.” When we flippantly respond to the vulnerability of another it is like “using a hatchet to kill a fly on the forehead of a friend.”
The reckless ripping off of a mask is the kiss of death for friendship. The process of revealing is painful and needs time – and trust. Masks are not bad; they serve a helpful, healthy purpose as we heal. They are not hypocritical. Just as flesh colored bandages are not bad, neither are appropriate masks. But just as wearing a bandage way beyond its usefulness is unnecessary, so is holding on to a mask which can be discarded in the presence of a true friend.
Think carefully about: 1) How comfortable am I with my masks? 2) Who do I trust with the unmasking process? 3) When am I most nervous about my mask?
Words of Wisdom: “The reckless ripping off of a mask is the kiss of death for friendship.”
Wisdom from the Word: “Let us evaluate for ourselves what is right; let us come to know among ourselves what is good.” (Job 34:4 NET Bible)