(A Handout at the Lifestream Basic Seminar)
Don’t be fooled by me. For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks. Masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them are mine. Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me, but don’t be fooled, for God’s sake, don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny, and coolness my game; that the water’s calm, and I’m in command, and that I need no one. But don’t believe me…Please don’t! My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my mask…my ever varying and ever-concealing mask. Beneath swells the real me, in confusion, in fear and in aloneness. But I hide this, I don’t want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness, and fear being exposed. That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind…a nonchalant, sophisticated facade…to help me pretend, to shield me from your glance…a glance that “knows.” But, such a glance is precisely my salvation…my only salvation…and I know it! But, provided that glance is followed by acceptance, and then followed by love. It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I can’t assure myself…that I’m really “worth” something.
But, I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare. I’m afraid to. I’m afraid you will think less of me, that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me. I’m afraid that deep down I’m “nothing,” that I’m just no good, and that you will see this and reject me.
So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game, with a facade of assurance on the outside, and a trembling child within. And, so begins the parade of masks, the glittering, but empty parade of masks, and my life becomes a front. I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk. I tell you everything that’s really nothing, and nothing of that which is everything…of what’s crying within me.
So, when I’m going through my routine, do not be fooled by what I’m saying. Please listen carefully, and try to hear what I’m “not” saying…what I’d like to be able to say, what, for survival, I need to say, but I can’t say. I dislike hiding…honestly, I do. I dislike the superficial game I’m playing…the superficial, phony game. I’d really like to be genuine and spontaneous, and “me.” Help me!
You’ve got to hold out your hand…even when that’s the last thing I seem to want or need. Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead. Each time you’re kind and gentle and encouraging. Each time you try to understand, because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings…very small wings, very feeble wings…but wings.
With your sensitivity, sympathy, and your power of understanding, you can breathe life into me. I want you to know that. I want you to know how important you are to me. How you can be a creator of the person that is me, if you choose to…please choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble. You alone can remove my mask. You alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic and uncertainty…from my lonely prison. So do not pass me by. Please don’t pass me by!
It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. The nearer you approach to me…the blinder I may strike back! It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man…I am irrational. I fight against the very thing that I cry out for.
But, I am told that love is stronger than strong walls, and in this lies my hope…my only hope. Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands…for a child is very sensitive, and I am a child.
Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet…
And I am every woman you meet…
And I am you also!
Written by: Charles C. Finn