There are many people I have met on my travels that wear a mask of some kind. I have learned, through these encounters, that I even have masks of my own. Wherever I encounter these masked people, I inevitably encounter an experience that has painful and often traumatic roots. People only wear masks as a form of protection, the mask essentially saying, “I don’t want to be hurt again.”

People are so good hiding behind smiles, jokes and over-exuberance. Others hide behind sullen looks, biting remarks and bitterness. Yet others take refuge in food, drink or drugs. Whether we think a smile is better than a sneer, if a mask, they hide the same pain and despair. I think that part of my task, when recognizing a mask, is to create a safe environment in which that mask could be taken off; it is to see if dealing with the hurtful memory can in some way be resolved in order for the mask to be left behind going forward.

I don’t say this not because I am some kind of wunderkind, or psychologist, but simply because there are many masks littering my own walk in life. So I know that it is possible. I also know the freedom experienced when that mask can be left next to the road. I recall vividly the ‘lightness’ experienced when a load is taken off my shoulders.

Perhaps the reason so many people are still imprisoned by the masks they wear, is that they have encountered a little more criticism or ridicule, than grace and forgiveness from others? What do you think? Could you imagine a place where no masks are worn simply because there is no need for them in the first place? “Ah,” you say, “that is far too Utopian! It could never be!” But what if collectively we could work to achieve this?