Last night, we were visited by a raccoon.
Raccoons have a mischievous and destructive reputation. They are known to carry rabies and will bite both people and pets.
They often run through the yard like furry, gray bulldozers, leaving a trail of trampled plants and broken pottery. This one was just outside the porch.
Usually they run away, but he came up to the screen and stood on his back legs. He moved his paws much like a puppy does when it wants to be picked up.
For a moment, the mask he wore told a tale of harmless innocence. Had anyone fallen for the act,however, the incident would have most likely ended up in the emergency room with a painful series of shots and possible stitches.
Now, for all the destruction and naughty behavior, raccoons are just doing what they need to do to survive in a world where humans have taken over their habitat. They are neither good, nor bad, but their behaviors can cause problems with the humans who share their territory.
Like the raccoon, we often wear a mask that represents the face we show to the world. This mask helps us to blend in and work with people from a variety of backgrounds.
Would you want your church leader to know about your occasional potty mouth?
Would you blurt out to your sport hunting friends that you are a vegetarian?
Perhaps you are one of the "no filter" people who doesn't care what others think. That is an honest approach, but does have its drawbacks.
In these cases, our masks are to keep peace with those around us where blunt honesty might separate us.
Other masks we wear, are to hide the things we are ashamed of. The things we are embarrassed about. The worst thing about these masks is that we keep them on when we look in the mirror.
A person with an eating disorder uses their mask to convince them that they are doing the right thing. Their weight has made them unacceptable in their eyes and starvation and purging are their rightful punishments.
A bully wears a "tough guy/girl" mask to hide the fact that they are secretly afraid. Like a bird that puffs up its feathers, they make themselves look larger than life so that others will hopefully run away.
A depressed person may put on a fake smile to hide their sadness when in a group of friends, rather than reach out to someone for help.
The mask, when worn long enough, becomes part of our identity. We forget who we are without it, and we are afraid of what we will find if we take it off.
This can affect our relationships as we struggle to be something we are not. We work to remember and keep up with the lies that we have told ourselves.
We try to move forward on our spiritual path and are frequently stopped by the emotional blocks we have been avoiding. We dig tunnels under and shortcuts around them, but they simply pop up in another place until we deal with them.
We may choose to give up on the relationship or try a different spiritual path, only to meet the same issues in the next one.
So, how do we remove the mask and heal the person underneath who we no longer recognize as ourselves?
First, think about the things that people criticize and complain about the most in your behavior.
Are you bossy? Boastful? Prejudiced? A victim? An energy vampire?
Second, put yourself in the other person's place. How would you feel if you were the recipient of your energy?
Third, is there any truth there? There is no blame or judgement in this step. Just be a detective looking for the facts. Take the other persons actions into account as well as your own. Relationship issues sometimes go both ways.
Fourth, what might have caused this behavior? Was there a past trauma? A childhood pattern inherited from your parents? Is it the result of physical pain or emotional distress?
Five, is it as bad as it seems? Are you overreacting to protect yourself from experiencing something that happened in the past? Or is this something new?
Six, how would you feel, how might your relationship change or how much farther would you have progressed, if you didn't have this issue? Who would you look like without this mask?
Seven, forgive yourself. Absolve yourself of blame. Like the raccoon, you were trying to survive. But now that you know you are fine, you can stop pretending to be someone else and embrace the beautiful expression of Divine Source energy that you are.
Where you go from there is up to you. You can apologize to those around you for past behavior or you may drift into a new circle of friends as the real you emerges. You may finally accept the reality of an abusive relationship and walk away. But in walking away, you are walking forward and making progress again.
Our masks can't last forever. It is best to empower yourself and remove your own mask than to let another do it for you.
The journey is always smoother when we take control of the vehicle. Your grandest destinations awaits! Enjoy the ride!