Most of the masks on Halloween night are worn by little people. But big people often wear masks all of the time, and it’s not for fun. They wear masks because they want to hide their real self from other people. Maybe they think other people wouldn’t like them if they knew the person that they really are. People even pretend in church. “How are you today?” “Oh, fine, just fine,” they reply, while inside they are falling apart. I have done that. We probably all have. Maybe we think the person asking doesn’t really care or wouldn’t be able to help anyway. Maybe it hurts too much to talk about it, so it’s easier to deny it. Maybe it’s really very personal and we just don’t know who to trust.
Sometimes people pretend because they were taught as little children not to cry, especially little boys. “Big boys don’t cry,” fathers tell their little boys, because that’s what their father told them. That’s just plain wrong. Children need to be allowed to express their emotions, both boys and girls. There is nothing wrong with crying, in fact it is healthy. Emotions that are denied will manifest themselves in some other, harmful way. Stuffed down long enough, they will cause other emotional problems, or even physical problems.
Duane sometimes wore a mask. He gave the impression of always being happy-go-lucky, the friend who always wanted to be there for his friends, holding them up, counseling them, encouraging them, making them smile. I love the stories that friends have shared with me, stories such as when he called a friend during a thunderstorm in the middle of the night because he knew she was afraid of them, or when he comforted another friend after the loss of a loved one, or when he walked a friend home from work as often as he could. But inside he had a lot of hurt. I know because sometimes his friends told me. Sometimes I saw it myself. I saw him betrayed by friends and misunderstood by adults who should have known better, and who judged him by outward appearances instead of looking at his heart. He carried hurt that had been done to him and he carried hurt that had been done to others.
He’s free of those burdens now. But I wish he would have learned that he didn’t have to carry them then. He had received Jesus as his savior, but he hadn’t learned how to turn the burdens over.