No, I haven’t been watching old TV episodes of The Lone Ranger. However, I have been thinking about last Sunday’s message at church (entitled “When Masks Melt”) and this made me think of the masked man himself – the Lone Ranger. His disguise was intentional and obvious, not like the rest of us.
With the William Tell overture playing in the background of my mind, I listened to the message, which suggested that we hide our true selves because of shame. In the Bible, in Genesis – Chapters 2 and 3 we see the introduction of shame, when Adam and Eve hid behind fig leaves after disobeying God. The pastor pointed out that we’re not much different; we hide shameful aspects of our lives so others can’t judge us – just as Adam and Eve feared God would judge them.
Some masks he mentioned are: obsession with sports, superficial things (like outward appearances), and humor. I flinched a little, and I swear he looked right at me, though there were 200 other people in the room. Well, uh…let me tell you about the priest, a minister and a rabbi who walked into a bar…
The pastor then asked us to identify ways we hide and pretend. He suggested taking a “relational risk” by revealing ourselves to others in small groups or one-on-one.
The first part was easy. I thought of how many times I’ve lied to others to protect myself. I say I’m fine when I’m not or make a joke to deflect a curious question. If I’m hurting, I don’t want to burden others with the knowledge of it. In our society, we are brought up to respond this way, but it’s isolating. How much lighter would we feel if we only asked how someone was doing when we really wanted to know, and felt safe enough to give an honest answer when asked?
The “relational risk” part caused my heart skip a beat or three. This suggestion made me feel as exposed as wearing a swimsuit without a cover up that reached my knees. Emotional nakedness is what recurring nightmares are made of.
As intended, it got me thinking about my relationships. I reveal different things about myself online vs. in person. My personal interactions shift depending on who I am talking to: parents, boss, friends, co-workers or husband. My true self is like the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop – and no one person has gotten to my core.
The internet removes the judgment of face-to-face relationships because I have no idea who is reading, and they don’t know who I am either. But what I share is also guarded for the exact same reasons. The internet is like a suit of armor allowing me to conceal all but the tiniest pieces of my real self. Interaction is kept at arm’s length because there is no laughter, sharing of tears or an encouraging embrace. It is impossible to know if “fine” is really fine when reading words on a computer screen.
That being said, I don’t plan to abandon my online self. Sorry. I bet you got excited for a minute there. The interaction and comments are just too much to resist.
Perhaps the next series in church will address addiction?
How is your ‘online self’ different from your ‘in-person self’? Do you feel more comfortable with online or in-person interactions? I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic.