Sorry guys, this blog is primarily about the gals today; however, you may see yourselves peeking through, regardless…
A few years ago, I read an article in an online magazine in which the author, Naomi Alderman, discussed several examples of women she pretends to be in order to get by in her particular male-dominated vocational world. As I read her piece, some of the author’s pretend personas resonated with me, and I don’t work in a male-dominated environment; mostly, I work at home with my eleven-year-old Cocker Spaniel snoring softly nearby. He is a male, but he thinks he is a princess most of the time, plus he sleeps approximately twenty hours per day, so he probably can’t be counted as part of my work environment, anyway. My part-time work place is very PC, being a world of counseling, but it is in a mostly Christian setting, so the masks do reveal themselves fairly often.
Alderman’s article has continued to linger around the edges of my mind, (sometimes that’s as far as a thought gets), and later I began to ruminate more purposefully concerning how her words applied to my life. I believe the roles that were specifically mentioned are basically familiar to women even in Christian communities, perhaps especially in church communities where we often fear rejection for not being an ideal “Christian woman”.
Examples that come to mind are the angry, mouthy feminist, (a woman with a strong opinion who is not afraid to voice it is often considered this, particularly in conservative circles); the one-of-the-boys woman, (she is often athletic and all things related to women’s ministry give her hives); the play-it-dumb type (she can’t understand or figure out…well…anything without a man around); the victim (poor me, why does everything bad happen to me?); and the comforter, (she plays well with the victim).
I have wondered, however, if different settings don’t call for different masks. For instance, when I have been in situations where I have worked primarily with other women, the rules seem to change, as well as the masks. We are all aware, if not personally, from friends or family members, of horror stories from the office drama between women personnel. I have a daughter-in-law and a close friend who worked in dentist offices for many years. Some of their stories of office interaction could become reality television shows. I rest my case.
On a personal level, if I find myself with women who don’t want to make decisions, and there seem to be a plethora of us like this, I become the strong, decision-making leader. Indecision within a group makes my eyes cross, my heart rate skyrocket, and causes a momentary, minuscule desire to jump out a window. It’s much healthier for me to take the lead.
On the other hand, when I have found myself in situations where there have been two or more forceful types vying for a leadership role, I have been content to sit quietly in the background. (Is that a wallflower?!) Too many Chiefs have me looking around for the nearest exit… though I, myself am equally capable of wearing the same identity as they are presenting in a different group of people.
Sometimes the mask I wear, which probably least resembles the person who resides somewhere within me, is the placater. This one comes out most for my adult children or, on occasion, my husband. I recognize this mask asserting itself frequently around holidays when I want my children to come home or stay at our house instead of the in-laws’. (Ouch! True confessions!) It feels degrading and manipulative; I really hate it. Consequently, the placater comes out less frequently now that I have come to recognize it sooner. Grievously, however, I see it often in some friends who are close to me. Placating can feel like peacemaking, but it is a cheap version. It’s painful to observe because I know how it makes me feel when I place myself behind that mask and I wonder why women feel the need to wear it at all. Why do we place ourselves in roles where we are inauthentic??
In the midst of my pondering the question begs to be asked- did Jesus wear masks? My immediate response is, “Absolutely not”. Yet, many faces of Jesus were revealed while He walked on earth. The angry, critical face He reserved for the Pharisees could not have been more different from the inviting, kind face with which He engaged the Samaritan woman at the well. The compassionate face Jesus presented to the widow who was burying her only son was nothing like the outraged face that cleared the temple filled of moneychangers with a roaring voice. He was considered meek and mild, but revealed a face and a voice of magnificent authority when He cast demons out of a boy and called Lazarus forth from the grave. We are presented with numerous examples, but the point is clear – Jesus wore many faces…but not one mask. Jesus was completely authentic. He didn’t need to wear a mask because His identity was clear-He was and is one with the Father (John 10:30; John 14).
I find I pull my masks out when I am feeling insecure, unaccepted, or unloved in a given situation. Instead of running to the Lover of my soul, I run to the closet of my mind, blow off the dust from a mask, and slip it on for a false sense of security. Jesus never needed to do that because He was completely convinced that His Father lavished His love on Him. The closer I draw to Jesus each day, the more I trust that He is true to His Word about His love for me. I can choose my authentic self in Christ in each threatening situation.
The cleaning has been a long process. Eventually, I hope to discard all those dusty, old masks.
Warning: a few may not like the authentic you, but Jesus does.