I was with a group of ladies last week. We ate good food, shared stories, then sat down to do what we were there for. Learn together and connect. We’re doing a book study. But what always happens is way more than a book study. Relationships are formed, hearts are connected, and lives are shared.

In the beginning, we don’t share as freely. Our talk is more about the weather or our jobs. As we get to know one another we start telling stories of our families and friends. Eventually we are comfortable enough to share more. While we’re talking about the book one of us will share a related personal experience. Another one shares, then another.  At the end of the 8 to 12 week study we know each other on a deeper level.

Hopefully, we’ve let our guards down, taken off the mask, and quit pretending. We’ve connected.  That happens when we uncover the deep things of our hearts.

Still, we all have a mask……….a brilliant disguise that we’ve created for others to see. Sometimes it’s needed and serves us well.  image

When I interviewed for my current job, I pretended to be confident as I discussed the position and answered their questions. What the interviewers didn’t know:  I was intimidated and nervous. Nevertheless, I was offered the job. I believe my act of self-assurance helped me get it.

But we wear our disguises too often. We think we need them. We believe if others knew our past, our thoughts and quirks, odd habits and fixations, our tendencies and dark addictions that they would stop liking us, ignore us, or worse…..avoid us. However, genuine relationships require we reveal our true identity.

An intimate marriage can’t happen with a brilliant disguise; close friendships either. The facade affects our parenting and frustrates our children. Our kids, especially teenagers, want the real deal.

The disguise makes us unapproachable and guarded. We become judgmental because we forget who we are. The disguises, no matter how brilliant, may protect us from harm some of the time, but will hinder love all of the time.

But when I discard the disguise wonderful things happens. People connect with the authenticity and see something familiar. Some of our fears are lifted. I recognize that I am not the only one with that past or those thoughts. My strange ways aren’t so unusual and my weaknesses are quite common. We all feel less lonely which makes us more willing to take the mask off again.

Wear your mask for your next presentation at work. Take it off when your teenager asks if you’ve ever made a bad decision, when your friend calls to tell you some bad news, or you notice a co-worker with tears in her eyes. And try not to put it back on.

We’re more brilliant when we’re unmasked anyway.