My oldest daughter and I were driving past the house where we lived until she was eight years old and I asked her, "Do you remember living in that house?"
She said she did. So naturally I asked, "What do you remember?"
Her reply struck me as odd, yet somehow profound. She said, "I remember my third birthday party in the backyard and you had a clown come and we all cried, because the clown scared us."
What scared my daughter and her friends was the fact that they could not tell who was behind the mask.
Many of us wear masks every day. Depending on the occasion or circumstance we throw on a mask to fit our need.
We have become afraid of letting people see the real us. We are afraid of letting someone see our shortcomings out of the fear that they will not like or love us.
At work we may throw on a mask of authority and power in order to seem in control.
At home we may throw on a mask of contentment, a mask of everything is okay, out of fear our spouse may not love someone with problems.
In social situations we may throw on a mask of self-righteousness and pride, a mask of "I have my life together, so don't ask me how I am doing. I don't need any help; I don't want any fellowship with you people that are down and out. I am okay."
Maybe we even have a mask of rationalization that we put on in compromising situations, a mask that tries to show others, "I am really just like you. Please accept me."
On and on we go, shuffling our masks on and off from situation to situation, until one day our masks fail us. No matter how good we are at this game, eventually cracks develop from all the wear and tear of changing masks.
As the cracks develop people start seeing the real us in-between the cracks. Some may even reach out to help, but that mask of pride, which has now become a prison of pride, will not allow anyone inside.
All the masks will become prisons of guilt, resentment, self-centeredness and on and on. The prisons can become solitary confinement.
We find ourselves in isolation built in our mind, built by our actions, built by losing the real us somewhere behind these masks.
It takes a long time to build these prisons out of masks, so remember it will take time to tear them down.
Often, the most complex part of a solution is saying the simple word, "help."